: “The ceiling above me had crumbled like wet chalk.”
This is a real life incident, taken from one of Nilsen’s home videos, filmed circa 1976. In reality, Nilsen seemed extremely annoyed by the collapse of his roof; but the videos seem to imply a much cosier domestic situation, in contrast to the squalor of his later life in Cranley Gardens, and this episode seemed to be an intriguing, attention-grabbing opening to the narrative.
: “Soon Twinkle was awake as well.”
Dennis Nilsen first met then-20-year-old David Gallichan (aka: ‘Twinkle’ or ‘Twink’) outside the Champion pub in Bayswater in November of 1975. Nilsen had intervened and defended him from homophobic aggressors. He offered to take him back to his flat. Gallichan, who had been living in an Earl’s Court hostel at the time, agreed. The two men moved into 195 Melrose Avenue together not long after.
Their relationship was complicated, sometimes sexual, and fraught with tension. Nilsen was often abrasive and controlling with Gallichan (even correcting his grammar and speech like a ‘teacher’) and seemed to harbour deeper romantic feelings for his roommate, which Gallichan did not reciprocate.
Whatever the precise nature of their relationship, it is undeniable that Nilsen was happier and more functional when he was living with Gallichan. The home videos Nilsen recorded at this time are playfully domestic. It is my contention that Nilsen’s personality rapidly disintegrated after Gallichan left Melrose Avenue, exacerbating his latent murderous urges
: “They had been bringing strangers into the house.”
Both men did bring back other sexual partners while they were housemates together.
Gallichan seemed to do so for normal reasons: a young man in London enjoying the city’s LGBT+ subcultures and the casual sex that living in the closet had denied him. Nilsen appeared to sleep around in order to impress on Gallichan that he was easily-replacable. Sadly, history shows that he wasn’t
Nilsen did not actually identify as gay, but bisexual, and did have full intercourse with a woman on at least one occasion while living at Melrose Avenue. However, he allegedly found the experience ‘depressing’, and harboured a preference for men.
: “Then the door slammed and he was gone.”
Accounts are conflicted regarding Gallichan’s departure. Gallichan insists that, tired of Nilsen’s domineering attitude, he left the flat of his own free will. Nilsen claims that Gallichan was a scrounger, and that he threw him out. I have thus left Gallichan’s abandonment of Nilsen (a lucky escape for him) intentionally ambiguous.
One thing is unambiguous: Nilsen’s abandonment issues went from an everyday neurosis to a morbid pathology following Gallichan’s departure. Every killing hence was an attempt by Nilsen, consciously or unconsciously, to keep people from leaving him.
: “There was a cat too, called Dee-Dee, but she comes and goes.”
Dee-Dee the cat (named for Dennis and David’s initials) did indeed live with Nilsen in Melrose Avenue, along with some fish in the garden pond, and a budgie named Hamish.
I could find no mention of her in any relevant literature following Nilsen and Bleep’s move to Cranley Gardens; so I assumed that, as many pet cats are freely independent, she left Nilsen’s house and lived as a stray following his incarceration.
: “I don’t see so well in my left eye, so sometimes I’m not sure what I’m looking at.”
Bleep was indeed a black-and-white border collie mix, who was blind in one eye. From what few pictures that exist of her, she seemed to simply be visually-impaired in the left eye, as opposed to only having one-eye. However, dogs rely on sight far less than humans do, and thus she was not badly affected by her disability.
: “There are all kinds of secrets in it; little bones and things.”
When Nilsen and Gallichan moved into 195 Melrose Avenue, they managed to negotiate full and exclusive use of the garden with the landlord.
The back yard had been little more than a weed-infested wasteland for many years, but the two men worked hard to beautify it, planting flowers, mowing the lawn, and hacking back unruly flora. Predictably, their neighbours only seemed to complain about their exclusive right to use the garden after all the hard work of clearing it out was completed.
After Nilsen’s arrest and full confession, he accompanied forensic experts to show them where more of the buried remains of his victims could be found. Police unearthed several tiny bone fragments: some animal, others human, most unidentifiable.
: “Master is kindly.”
One of Nilsen’s tabloid titles, aside from ‘Muswell Hill Murderer’ was ‘The Kindly Killer.’ This was due to how he charmed his victims, often ingratiating himself to unhappy or destitute people in bars by providing a sympathetic ear and listening to their problems.
When talking with court-appointed psychiatrists (Dr Paul Bowden, Dr Patrick Gallwey, and Dr James MacKeith) Nilsen stated that he felt in some ways he was providing his victims with a kind of mercy; euthanising those whom society had let down.
: “It was a sunny day but Master closed all the blinds.”
An important detail. Not only does it display Nilsen’s need for intense privacy, but this line is actually taken from Nilsen himself when discussing the traumatic death of his grandfather, Andrew Whyte.
Nilsen stated in his personal letters to criminologist Brian Masters: “It is the custom up there in Fraserburgh that when there is a death in a household they draw the blinds and curtains. When my grandfather died, it seemed that these blinds had been drawn across my life.”
: “Sipping the brown liquid with the nasty smell.”
Nilsen was a habitual drinker, although not an alcoholic – he showed no signs of withdrawal when examined after his arrest after going without booze for weeks.
His favourite drink was rum, usually Bacardi, which he drank with Coke as a mixer. He drank beer on some occasions (as seen at a certain clip from one of his home videos) but didn’t like it much (again, he admits as such in the footage).
One of his defence team’s key blunders during his trial was to describe him drinking vodka instead of rum before strangling a victim.
Nilsen continued to drink while incarcerated at HMP Full Sutton. He told The Mirror in 2005 that he subsided on: “Liver-crippling draughts of prison hooch, that last vestige of herbal medicine still available to cons.”