One of Britain’s most notorious murderers, Dennis Nilsen and his crimes have been the subject of a number of TV shows, from ITV’s Des starring David Tennant, to BBC documentary Great Crimes and Trials – and now Netflix is set to take a fresh look at the serial killer in Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes.
The documentary, which lands on the streamer tomorrow, features audio from Nilsen himself, recorded on a cassette while the killer was in prison, and explores how he managed to commit such horrendous acts unnoticed for so long.
Directed by Michael Harte, this chilling film picks out Nilsen’s thoughts on his crimes and notoriety from over 250 hours of unheard recordings and features interviews with police officers and journalists involved in the case as well as survivors and victims’ family members.
Read on for everything you need to know about Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes.
Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes release date
The Nilsen Tapes documentary film will be available to stream on Netflix from Wednesday 18th August.
What is Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes about?
Crime writers and journalists have speculated about Nilsen’s motives for years. Now, the reasons behind Nilsen’s crimes are revealed, as director Michael Harte and the producers of Memories of a Murderer were given unique access to a personal archive that was left in Nilsen’s cell following his death in 2018.
As well as the serial killer’s writings, the archive also included over 250 hours of never-before-published cassette tapes recorded by Nilsen, in which he talked about his childhood, his life in London and the crimes he committed there.
The film also features interviews with police, journalists, the families of Nilsen’s victims, and those that survived his attacks alongside the clips of the killer’s own voice, explaining how he got away with murder for years.
Read on… to find out why Peter Jay and Brian Masters don’t feature in the film.
Who was Dennis Nilsen?
Dennis Nilsen was born in Scotland in 1945, and following time in the army he moved to London in 1973. He joined the Metropolitan Police, then worked as a security guard and as a civil servant at Jobcentres in North London.
It is believed that Nilsen began murdering men and boys in 1978. He is known to have killed 12 and attempted to murder seven others. He would lure his victim to his North London home – first 195 Melrose Avenue in Cricklewood, and later the attic flat at 23 Cranley Gardens in Muswell Hill – often with the offer of alcohol or shelter, and then strangle his victim until they were dead or unconscious (those that were unconscious he would then drown in his bath or sink).
Nilsen would then bathe and clothe the corpse, often keeping it in his home for several weeks before dismembering it and disposing of the body. Most of the victims he killed between 1978 and 1981 at his Cricklewood home were burnt in bonfires in his garden, while the victims in 1982 and 1983 who were killed at his Muswell Hill flat were buried under the floorboards of his flat as he had no access to outside space, while parts of their remains were flushed down his toilet.
It was this method of disposal that finally led to Nilsen’s arrest. The drains at Cranley Gardens became blocked in February 1983, and a plumber named Michael Cattran was called to the property. On opening a drain cover, he discovered small bones and reported them to a supervisor. The following day, Cattran and his supervisor returned to Cranley Gardens to discover the drain had been cleared, but they found more bones in a pipe that led to the top of the house and called the police.
When Nilsen returned from work that day, he gave police access to his flat and they immediately noticed a smell of rotting flesh. When questioned, Nilsen admitted there were dead bodies in the flat, and he was arrested on suspicion of murder. On the way to Hornsey police station, Nilsen told police he had killed ‘fifteen or sixteen’ men since 1978. However, Nilsen could not remember the names of many of his victims, so he was only charged with the murders that police investigators could confirm.
Following a trial in October 1983, Dennis Nilsen was found guilty of six murders and one attempted murder and received a life sentence. He was first taken to Wormwood Scrubs prison in West London before being transferred first to HMP Parkhurst and then HMP Wakefield, where he was imprisoned until 1990. Eventually he was taken to HMP Full Sutton, where he died on 12 May 2018.
At least four men who were murdered by Nilsen in Cricklewood remain unidentified.
Memories of a Murderer trailer
You can get a first-look at the docu-film by watching the trailer below:
Want more film content? Find out who Ivan Lawrence is and why he is featured in the documentary.