Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dennis Nilsen

Nilsen's Garden

Nilsen's garden held remains of 12 men
Nilsen's garden held remains of 12 men

Nilsen sprayed his rooms twice a day to be rid of flies that were hatched. Another tenant mentioned the pervasive odor, but Nilsen assured her it was the decay of the building. Once he contemplated suicide, but his dog came in, wagging her tail, and he decided against it. Instead he spat on his image in the mirror.

To get rid of the corpses, he would put his dog and cat in the garden, strip down to his underwear, and cut them up on the stone kitchen floor with a kitchen knife. Sometimes he would boil flesh off the head in the pot he had bought for the first victim. He had learned how to butcher, so he knew how best to cut up a body, and he placed the organs in a plastic bag. Then he would replace the whole package under the floor until the next step.

Bleep, Nilsen's dog
Bleep, Nilsen's dog

At one point, there were two entire bodies beneath the boards and one dismembered. He also put pieces into the garden shed or down a hole near a bush outside. Internal organs he put into a gap between the double fencing in his yard. A few severed torsos he stuffed into suitcases. When he could, he dragged the bags and suitcases out to the yard and burned the bodies a few feet from the garden fence.

It always amazed him that no one queried him about his activities or tried to stop him. (In fact, when his apartment was vandalized, he had detectives investigate and they remained completely unaware that they stood over the remains of two men.) Children came from the neighborhood to watch the blazing fire, which burned all day, and Nilsen warned them to keep some distance from it.

As the fire burned down, he spotted a skull in the center and crushed it into ash. Then he raked the remains of six men into the earth. Five more were still to die in that apartment, their remains consumed in a third bonfire.

When he prepared to move to a new place, he checked around and nearly forgot that he had placed the hands and arms of Martyn Barlow near a bush. He took care of that final detail and then drove away, hoping to put this part of his life behind him. Sixteen months later, after he was arrested, police officers found over one thousand bone fragments in his former garden.


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