By Russ Coffey
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Additional info for Dennis Nilsen
He hadn’t been deemed to be insane, so what was he? What were his drives and motives? Did he really have an emotional disorder or was he simply a psychopath? The title of one successful book on the case, Killing for Company, suggested Nilsen seemed, in part, to want companionship from his victims. Newer theories appear in TV documentaries every couple of years. Part of this interest is just macabre fascination. But there is also the fact that so many of the details derive from the killer himself.
One day he remembered running around amid the normal bustle of everyday life and the next his mother was telling him to go and see Grandad ‘laid out’ in his coffin. Grandad’s body was displayed in the front room. Apparently, no explanation was given as to what had happened nor to what it meant. Grandad just lay there in a cheap, plain, wooden box. In his book, Nilsen tells us the undertaker had dressed him in white long-johns and his weather-beaten face looked like it needed a shave. When little Dennis asked why he looked so strange, the response received was that it was because Grandad had ‘gone to a better place’.
And what exactly is it that people find so interesting about the case? Finally, it is essential that Nilsen’s story be seen constantly in conjunction with the perspective of his victims. Where possible, I have spoken to those who have been directly affected by his horrific crimes. Ultimately, it is up to the reader to make up his or her own mind about Nilsen’s writing. To that end, I have been careful to present the material clearly – both Nilsen’s own accounts and also the testimony of those who have known him.