Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dennis Nilsen

The Attic

Inside of the tea chest that contained human remains
Inside of the tea chest that contained human remains

Nilsen had lost the use of a garden and even of a space underneath floorboards. The house where he moved had been divided into six apartments and his flat at 23 Cranley Gardens was an attic. He was sure this would be a deterrent for his compulsive homicides. However, three more murders took place, and his quarters presented a complicated problem regarding disposal.

The first victim was John Howlett, whom Nilsen called John the Guardsman. They had met once in a pub and had engaged in a long conversation. Then Nilsen was drinking alone one day when John walked in and recognized him. They chatted and then decided to go to Nilsen's place, where after drinking awhile, John got into Nilsen's bed. Nilsen tried to get him to leave, but he refused to go. Nilsen then found a length of loose upholstery strap on an armchair and used it to strangle the man. At one point he feared he would be overpowered, so he tightened his grip as John fought for control. Then he struck his head and soon went limp. Nilsen kept the strap on him until he was sure he was dead, and then went shakily into the other room. He soon became aware the John was still alive. He lopped the strap around his neck again and held it for two or three minutes. However, John's heart was still beating, so Nilsen dragged him into the bathroom to drown him, leaving him there the rest of the night. Then he put the body in a closet as he contemplated how to get rid of it.

He decided to dissect it into small pieces and flush it down a toilet. He had to hurry as he had a friend coming to visit. When the flushing process took longer than expected, he boiled some of the flesh in his kitchen, along with the head, hands, and feet. Then the bones were separated and put into the trash. Some larger bones he hurled over the back garden fence into a waste area, and placed others into a bag sprinkled inside with salt and stored those in a tea chest. He covered that with a red curtain.

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