Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dennis Nilsen

Fantasies in the Mirror

He began to rely on alcohol to stave off loneliness, although he kept his distance from others. It was during these years, when he finally got a private room, that he would lay down in front of a mirror in such a way as not to see his head and pretend to be unconscious. The "other body" aroused him and he would masturbate as he contemplated it.

During the last few months of service, he met a man whom Brian Masters, in the definitive book on Nilsen, called "Terry Finch," and they developed a close friendship. Nilsen was clearly in love and he got the young man, who was not gay, to pretend to be dead while he took home movies. Their parting was a source of great pain for Nilsen. He destroyed the films he had made and gave the projector to Terry.

In 1972, he trained to become a policeman. One of the experiences he recalled was seeing autopsied bodies in a morgue. He found himself fascinated. Nevertheless, this job was not for him and after a year, he resigned. He got employment as a job interviewer and remained with that until his arrest.

He met a young man there, David Painter, who was looking for a job. Nilsen later encountered him in the street and they went together to Nilsen's flat. Painter crawled into bed and fell asleep. He awoke to find Nilsen taking pictures of him, and he created such a row that he hurt himself and had to be taken to a hospital. Nilsen was questioned by the police and released.

He fell into a life of casual pick-ups, but was troubled with how transient and superficial they were. He sought something more enduring. He was ready to commit, if only someone would commit to him. His fantasies in the mirror developed more bizarre qualities. Now he thought of the "other" body as being dead-a state he perceived as emotional and physical perfection. He even used make-up to achieve a better effect, including mixing up some fake blood to make it appear that he had been murdered. He imagined someone coming in to take him and bury him. Sometimes it worried him to be so in love with his own dead body.

In 1975, he moved into 195 Melrose Place in north London-a ground floor flat with a gardenwith a man named David Gallichan, who denied that their friendship was homosexual. They bought a puppy, which they named Bleep, and then added a cat.

Two years later, with their diverse personalities causing considerable distress to both, Nilsen ordered Gallichan to leave. Afterward, however, he felt very afraid that he would end up alone. "Loneliness is a long unbearable pain," he wrote. He threw himself into his work, became increasingly more political, drank more, and watched a lot of television.

The killings began a year and a half after Gallichan left.


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