Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dennis Nilsen

The Ones Who Lived

Many young men-and even a woman-came home with Nilsen and left unharmed, but a few just barely managed to escape, and some of those had made police reports. A more thorough investigation may have saved some lives. Nilsen claims that he made seven attempts in which he was either fought off or later changed his mind. He recalls the names of only four, but three of them testified against him at trial.

In October, 1979, Andrew Ho made a complaint. He said Nilsen had attacked him, but he would not make a written statement or agree to attend court as a witness, so there was no follow-up. Perhaps Ho did not want to admit to his own solicitation of Nilsen.

Almost a year later, Douglas Stewart said that Nilsen had attacked him. He had fallen asleep in the armchair, waking to find his feet tied and Nilsen putting a tie around his neck. He fought back, knocking Nilsen over, and Nilsen told him to leave. He called the police to 195 Melrose Place on August 11, 1980, around 4:00 a.m., but they noticed that he had been drinking. They knocked at the door and Nilsen seemed surprised by what they said. They figured it to be a homosexual encounter, with both sides hiding some of the truth. They made a report, but Stewart failed to follow-up as required.

Nilsen lived in his Cranley Gardens flat less than a year and a half, but killed three men. He nearly killed several more.

On November 23rd, 1981-Nilsen's 36th birthdayhe took a nineteen-year-old gay student named Paul Nobbs back home with him and they sat drinking together. Then they went to bed and Nobbs woke up at 2:30 in the morning with a terrible headache. He woke again at six and went into the kitchen. In the mirror there, he saw a deep red mark across his throat. The white of his eyes were bloodshot and his face looked bruised. Nilsen commented that he looked awful and advised him to see a doctor. That day, Nobbs visited the university infirmary and learned that bruises on his throat indicated that someone had tried to strangle him. He declined to report the incident.

The victim right after him was John Howlett, who did not escape.

For New Year's Eve that year, neighbors of Nilsen's were invited to his flat, but they had plans. Besides, he appeared drunk, which disturbed them. They heard him leave the house and return home with someone. Then they heard a commotion upstairs. Someone came running down the steps, sobbing, and ran out the front door. That man was Toshimitsu Ozawa. He told police that he thought Nilsen had intended to kill him. He had approached Ozawa with a tie stretched between his hands. There was no follow-up investigation.

In April, 1982, Nilsen entertained a drag artist named Carl Stotter, 21. They drank together and went to bed. He attempted to strangle Stotter, who woke up, unable to breathe. He thought Nilsen was trying to help him, but that was not the case. Nilsen carried him into the bathroom and placed him in a tub of water, submerging him several times until Stotter begged for him to stop. Stotter then went under and stopped struggling. Nilsen thought he was dead and carried him to the couch. Bleep jumped up and began to lick Stotter's face, aware that he was still alive. Nilsen then took him to bed and wrapped himself around the young man until he regained consciousness. Nilsen told Stotter that he had gotten his throat caught in the zipper of the sleeping bag that had covered him. Stotter attributed the experience to a bad nightmare, despite getting a check-up and learning that his condition was consistent with severe strangulation. He actually agreed to meet Nilsen again, but did not keep the appointment. He also did not go to the police.


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