At Cranley Gardens, Nilsen had no access to a garden, and as he resided in an attic flat, he was unable to stow any bodies beneath his floorboards. For almost two months, any acquaintances Nilsen encountered and lured to his flat were not assaulted in any manner, although he did attempt to strangle a 19-year-old student named Paul Nobbs on 23 November 1981. In March 1982, Nilsen encountered a 23-year-old named John Howlett as he (Nilsen) drank in a pub located close to Leicester Square. Howlett was lured to Nilsen's flat on the promise of continuing drinking with Nilsen. At Cranley Gardens, both Nilsen and Howlett drank as they watched a film, before Howlett walked into Nilsen's front room and fell asleep in the bed (which was located in the front room at this time). One hour later, Nilsen unsuccessfully attempted to rouse Howlett, then sat on the edge of the bed drinking rum as he stared at Howlett, before deciding to kill him. Following a ferocious struggle (in which Howlett himself attempted to strangle his attacker), Nilsen strangled Howlett into unconsciousness with an upholstery strap before returning to his living room, shaking from the "stress of the struggle" in which he had believed he would be overpowered. On three occasions over the following ten minutes, Nilsen unsuccessfully attempted to kill this victim after noting he had resumed breathing, before deciding to fill his bathtub with water and drown him.
For over a week following Howlett's murder, Nilsen's own neck bore the victim's finger impressions.
In May 1982, Nilsen encountered Carl Stottor, a 21-year-old homosexual, as the youth drank at The Black Cap pub in Camden. Nilsen engaged Stottor in conversation; discovering the youth was depressed following a failed relationship. After plying the youth with alcohol, Nilsen invited Stottor to his flat, assuring his guest he had no intention of sexual activity. At Nilsen's flat, Stottor consumed further alcohol before falling asleep upon an open sleeping bag; he later awoke to find himself being strangled as Nilsen informed him, "Stay still". In his subsequent testimony at Nilsen's trial, Stottor stated he initially believed Nilsen was trying to free him from the zip of the sleeping bag, before he returned to a state of consciousness. He then vaguely recalled hearing "water running" before realising he was immersed in the water and that Nilsen was attempting to drown him. After briefly succeeding in raising his head above the water, Stottor gasped the words, "No more, please! No more!" before Nilsen again submerged Stottor's head beneath the water.
Believing he had killed Stottor, Nilsen seated the youth in his armchair, then noted his mongrel dog, Bleep, licking Stottor's face. Nilsen realised the tiniest thread of life still clung in the youth: he rubbed Stottor's limbs and heart to increase circulation, covered the youth's body in blankets, them lay him upon his bed. When Stottor regained consciousness, Nilsen embraced him; he then explained to Stottor he had almost strangled himself on the zip of the sleeping bag, and that he had resuscitated him. Over the following two days, Stottor repeatedly lapsed in and out of consciousness. When Stottor had regained enough strength to question Nilsen as to his recollections of being strangled and immersed in cold water, Nilsen explained he had become caught in the zip of the sleeping bag following a nightmare, and that he had placed him in cold water as "you were in shock". Nilsen then led Stottor to a nearby railway station, where he informed the youth he hoped they may meet again before he bade him farewell.
Three months after Nilsen's June 1982 promotion to the position of executive officer in his employment, he encountered a 27-year-old named Graham Allen attempting to hail a taxi in Shaftesbury Avenue. Allen accepted Nilsen's offer to accompany him to Cranley Gardens for a meal. As had been the case with several previous victims, Nilsen stated he could not recall the precise moment he had strangled Allen, but recalled approaching him as he sat eating an omelette with the full intention of murdering him. Allen's body was retained in the bathtub for a total of three days before Nilsen began the task of dissecting his body upon the kitchen floor. Nilsen is again known to have informed his employers he was ill and unable to attend work on 9 October 1982â€”likely in order that he could complete the dissection of Allen's body.
On 26 January 1983, Nilsen killed his final victim, 20-year-old Stephen Sinclair. Sinclair was last seen by acquaintances of his in the company of Nilsen, walking in the direction of a tube station. At Nilsen's flat, Sinclair fell asleep in a drug- and alcohol-induced stupor in an armchair as Nilsen sat listening to the rock opera Tommy. Nilsen approached Sinclair, knelt before him and said to himself, "Oh Stephen, here I go again", before strangling Sinclair with a ligature constructed with a necktie and a rope. Noting crepe bandages upon each of Sinclair's wrists, Nilsen removed these to discover several deep slash marks from where Sinclair had recently tried to kill himself.
Following his usual ritual of bathing the body, Nilsen lay Sinclair's body upon his bed, applied talcum powder to the body, then arranged three mirrors around the bed before himself lying naked alongside the dead youth. Several hours later, he turned Stephen's head towards him, before kissing the youth's body on the forehead and saying, "Goodnight, Stephen". Nilsen then fell asleep alongside the body.
As had been the case with both Howlett and Allen, Sinclair's body was subsequently dissected, with the various dismembered parts wrapped in plastic bags and stored in either a wardrobe, a tea chest or within a drawer located beneath the bathtub. The bags used to seal Sinclair's remains would be sealed with the same crepe bandages Nilsen had found upon Sinclair's wrists. Nilsen did attempt to dispose of the flesh, internal organs and smaller bones of all three victims killed at Cranley Gardens by flushing their dissected remains down his toilet. In a practise which he had conducted upon several victims killed at Melrose Avenue, he also boiled the heads, hands and feet to remove the flesh off these sections of the victims' bodies.
On 4 February 1983, Nilsen wrote a letter of complaint to estate agents complaining that the drains at Cranley Gardens were blocked, and that the situation for both himself and the other tenants at the property was intolerable. The following day, he refused to allow an acquaintance to enter his property (the reason being he had begun to dismember the body of Stephen Sinclair on the floor of his kitchen).
Nilsen's murders were first discovered by a Dyno-Rod employee named Michael Cattran, who responded to the complaints made by both Dennis Nilsen and other tenants of 23 Cranley Gardens regarding the drains of the property being blocked on 8 February 1983. Opening a drain cover at the side of the house, Cattran discovered the drain was packed with a flesh-like substance and numerous small bones. Cattran reported his suspicions to his supervisor, Gary Wheeler. However, no assessment was made until the following morning, by which time the drain had been cleared. This aroused the suspicions of the drain inspector and his supervisor. Cattran did discover some scraps of flesh and four bones in a pipe leading from the drain which linked to the top flat of the house. To both Cattran and Wheeler, the bones looked as if they originated from a human hand. Both men immediately called the police who, upon closer inspection, discovered further small bones and scraps of what looked to the naked eye like either human or animal flesh in the same pipe leading from the drain. These remains were taken to Hornsey Mortuary, where pathologist Professor David Bowen advised police that the remains were indeed human, and that one particular piece of flesh he concluded had been from a human neck bore a ligature mark.
Upon learning from fellow tenants of 23 Cranley Gardens that the tenant of the top floor flat from where the human remains had been flushed was one Dennis Andrew Nilsen, and that he worked in a job centre in Kentish Town, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay and two colleagues opted to wait outside 23 Cranley Gardens until Nilsen returned home from work. When Nilsen returned home, DCI Jay introduced himself and his colleagues; explaining they had come to enquire about the blockage in the drains from his flat. Nilsen asked why the police would be interested in his drains and also if the two officers present with Jay were health inspectors. In response, Jay informed Nilsen the other two individuals were also police officers and requested access to his flat to discuss the matter further.
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