Thursday, 31 October 2013

On his grandfather's death

Sixty-two years ago today, Des' grandfather Andrew Whyte died at sea. Many commentators have agreed that Andrew's death had a profund influence on the young Des, and may well have been a formative experience that was to lead to murder thirty years later.

This is Des' own recollection of his grandfather's death.

For the most part mine was a female dominated world. Mother, grandmother, aunt. I vaguely remember my grandfather when he was not away at sea as a fisherman. I remember him as a tall, quiet, powerful figure who took an interest in me. He would take me out on long walks over the sand dunes and golf links. It would seem that he had no real interest in my older half-brother or my younger sister. On the dunes at the far end of the bay, near the stream flowing into the sea, there was a concrete pill box, built as part of the sea defences against a possible Nazi invasion during World War II, which had been over for about four and a half years. He would take me into the dark slit-windowed pill box and take down my short pants and hold my penis and tell me to urinate. I must have been about four years old at the time. 
Tired by the long (to a child) journey I would invariably fall asleep and be carried home in my grandfather’s arms. My conscious memory is of his strength and a feeling of comfort and security. These were my only real, one to one, personable physical contact with someone who took a beneficial interest in me. He may have been a tepid paedophile but I do not remember him as threatening or oppressive, unless the traumas of some unpalatable truth or event is still locked up in the sub-conscious. 
These days of granddad were of short duration because he died at sea, aged sixty-two, of a heart attack in October 1951. Then began my first encounter with the fact and mystery of ‘Death’. I remember being carried under my mother’s arm into the room where he lay encoffined and on display for all visitors. He looked asleep with his John Lennon-type spectacles and dressed, bizarrely, in white with his bare feet sticking out at the bottom. The rough weather-beaten skin of his face gave the impression that he needed a shave. I did not know how to react or what to think.  
After this brief viewing I was whisked back to bed in the other room. Apparently my older brother and, perhaps, younger sister were both subjected to it. He had been ‘laid out’ in the room in which I was born, slept and lived in. Thereafter he disappeared from my life leaving behind the stark memory of the uncertain fact of his disappearance. I was told that he was ‘in heaven’ but I knew not where that was. However it dawned on me that he was locked inside a box and buried six feet under the ground. If this – death – could happen to him, so tall and strong, then I feared that this could easily happen to me. I was shocked by the idea of death. The grown-ups had said that granddad had ‘gone to a better place’ and it horrified me that it seemed they were saying that, in many respects, what happened to him, and his fate entombed underground, was a good thing. 
As he lay there in his box that day, I was puzzled that he was ignoring me as if he had deserted me. I hoped that he would see me later ‘when he was better’.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

His own Introduction

The following is Des's own introduction to Orientation in Me, the first volume of his autobiography. It was written at HMP Albany in May 1992, eight and a half years into his life sentence.

This short study is not a full autobiography. It is a narrative compilation including what I believe to be the salient features of my Sexual History. The only serious attempt to interpret my life was the book by Brian Masters, Killing for Company. However, my autobiography, ‘History of a Drowning Boy’ (written in 1988/89) has never been published and, thereby, my exposition of myself in full studied detail has not seen the light of day. 
Every author is entitled to his interpretation of a subject but one is not obliged to agree with his conclusions. 
I have spent almost nine years in a climate of long and detailed introspection, without counselling or therapy of any positive kind. Therefore it has fallen on me to prove the secret recesses of my personality in the hope that I may understand the engine of my actions and effect solutions to problems in a non-destructive way. In this short study I offer my own conclusions at the end. In measuring the spectrum of human conduct, none of us can, as yet, simplify mans infinitely varied behaviour into a set of definitive answers. All we can hope to do is gather and interpret as many of the common traits and features with a view to help us understand humanity better than ignorance and prejudice. 
I apologise in advance for the state of this first draft manuscript. I did no rough notes in longhand but put the recollections that came to mind straight from the mind onto this typewriter. As I was under the pressure of having to produce so much in such a short time (three weeks) and at moments when I was not engaged on other things. The entire text is replete with typing slips, errors and omissions due to the sheer speed of production. I have barely had time for anything other than a quick read over of what I have produced. It is not a full study because of the tight time factor but I trust it will be helpful in understanding the long road from childhood to the present day. I have tried not to replicate or repeat material I have produced in my Brixton prison journals of 1983. The narrative ends in 1985 because since then there has been practically no sexual element in my life. The second reason is that any man has a right to some recent privacy. Suffice to say that my sexuality today has in it no element of violence against other persons. I have not felt attracted to anyone sexually since I left Wakefield Prison in early April 1990. 
I hope this document will assist the reader in understanding the Orientation in my past life. This is comprehensive and I have held nothing, that springs to mind, back. I am willing to answer any questions not answered herein. 
DES NILSEN, 25th May 1992 

An introduction

For murdering fifteen men over a six year period, Dennis Andrew Nilsen was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Old Bailey in London in November 1983. Currently held at HMP Full Sutton near York, he has been in prison ever since and is unlikely ever to be released.

During his time in prison Dennis - who since early adulthood has called himself 'Des' - has written several volumes of autobiography, in addition to the early notebooks he provided to Brian Masters for the research that led to the first book on the case, Killing for Company. During 2003 and 2004, Dennis sought judicial review of a decision by a prison governor to deny him the right to publish his autobiography, but lost his case.

Despite losing this case, it remains a fact that the voluminous autobiography - which runs to over 1,000 pages - are of significant public, psychological and criminological interest. The purpose of this site is to share salient extracts from these volumes to add to the understanding of how a seemingly ordinary civil servant can commit such horrific acts.

A Wikipedia entry on Dennis Nilsen provides some background to his life and crimes.

Neither this website, nor the associated Twitter account, are endorsed by Dennis Nilsen, the Ministry of Justice, HM Prison Service or any other official.