Serial killer Dennis Nilsen escorted in a police van on November 5, 1983. (Credit: Harry Dempster/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Scottish serial killer and necrophile, Dennis Nilsen, is under the spotlight again in filmmaker Michael Ogden’s BBC Two documentary, The Nilsen Files.
Nilsen was convicted in 1983 for the murders of six young men, whose stories are at the centre of the docuseries. Ogden will ask why, 40 years on, they remain just a footnote in this terrible case.
Here’s everything you need to know about both Dennis Nilsen and The Nilsen Files.
What is The Nilsen Files about?
The Nilsen Files is a three-part documentary about serial killer Dennis ‘Des’ Nilsen, who murdered six young men in the early 1980s.
Who was Dennis Nilsen?
Dennis Nilsen was a Scottish serial killer, who was active in the early 1980s. He served as a member of the Metropolitan Police, and began killing people during the 1970s.
He strangled many of his victims.
What happened to Dennis Nilsen?
Nilsen went to prison in 1983. He was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years for six charges of murder and two counts of attempted murder.
He eventually died in 2018 at the age of 72, having suffered a ruptured aneurysm.
Who were Dennis Nilsen’s victims?
Nilsen is understood to have killed at least 12 people. Nilsen himself claimed 15 murders, while others believed he killed at least seven more people.
Nilsen claimed not to remember most of his victims, and offered only vague profiles to the police.
Only six men were identified by the police: Stephen Holmes, Kenneth Ockenden, Malcolm Barlow, John Howlett, Graham Allen, and Stephen Sinclair.
What makes this documentary different from all the other ones?
Ostensibly, it’s intended to shine a particular light on Nilsen’s victims – looking specifically at how homophobic attitudes, both amongst the public and the police force, contributed to their disappearances being overlooked.
This is in contrast to the Netflix documentary Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes, which drew heavily from Nilsen’s own writings and tape recordings made during his time in prison.
When and how can I watch it?
The Nilsen Files began on BBC Two at 9pm on Monday 24 January, and will air over three consecutive Mondays.
The three-part documentary is now available in full on BBC iPlayer.
Who made The Nilsen Files?
The Nilsen Files comes from filmmaker Michael Ogden.
Ogden has made two previous documentaries about serial killers, The Shipman Files and The Yorkshire Ripper Files. This is the third part of that series.
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