30th December 1978

Serial killer Dennis Nilsen’s first killing

Dennis Nilsen was born in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, in November 1945 and later became one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers.

He was convicted of six counts of murder and two of attempted murder in 1983, although he is thought to have been responsible for several other killings between his first in 1978, and his arrest 15 years later.

Stephen Holmes

His first murder is believed to be that of Stephen Holmes, on 30 December 1978. Nilsen met the 14-year-old Holmes in a London pub and invited him back to his own flat so they could have a drink together. At the end of the night, they fell asleep in the same bed and, when Nilsen was the first to wake up the following morning, he half strangled, then drowned Holmes in the flat, so that they could be together over the new year.

He later buried Holmes’ remains under the floorboards but, the following summer, dug them up and burned them in the flat’s back garden.

Stephen Holmes hadn’t originally been linked to Dennis Nilsen. On 13 January 2006, the Irish Times reported that “at the time of his arrest in 1983, Nilsen told the police that his first victim was a male Irish teenager. However, police only linked Stephen Holmes to Nilsen’s admissions when files on missing persons were being reviewed last year. Photographs of the boy were shown to Nilsen who confirmed that the pictures were of his first victim.”

First of 12 victims

In 2006, Nilsen, then serving a life sentence at Full Sutton Prison in York, wrote a letter about the killing, which he sent to the London Evening Standard, claiming that Holmes had been the first of 12 victims. Several of the victims’ bodies had been burned in the back garden, as Holmes’ had been, but when Nilsen moved to a different flat, from which he no longer had access to a garden, he began chopping up the remains and disposing of them down the sink and toilet. It was this that ultimately led to his discovery and arrest, when a plumber found some of the remains in a communal drain serving the building in which Nilsen lived.

“Probably 15” bodies

This was reported to police, who were waiting for Nilsen when he returned home on the evening of 9 February 1983. He let them into his flat and told them where they could find other remains, stored in a cupboard. The Aberdeen Evening Express of 5 November 1983, revealed that after being placed in a police car “he was asked one question on the short drive to Hornsey police station: ‘Are we looking at one body or two?’ Nilsen replied: ‘Neither. It’s probably 15’.”

Upon his conviction later that year, the Liverpool Echo of 5 November reported that he had “boasted to police that he was ‘The Murderer of the Century’, [and] was found guilty on 10-2 majority on all the [six] murder charges and one of the [two] attempted murder charges. On the other the jury’s verdict was unanimous.”

Nilsen died in prison on 12 May 2018.



Other events that occured in December

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