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How notorious serial killer Denis Nilsen died in ‘excruciating pain’

Dennis Nilsen is a notorious serial killer who took the lives of at least 12 young men and boys between 1978 and 1983.

He would often pray on homosexuals or the homeless, and would call himself Des to make him sound more approachable to his would-be victims.

The story of how Nilsen, otherwise known as the Muswell Hill Murderer, was arrested and sentenced to life in prison is to be brought to life as part of a new ITV true-crime drama.

Nilsen, who is played by Broadchurch and Doctor Who star David Tennant, was arrested by Hertfordshire-based detective DCI Jay when rotting flesh was found clogging up his drains outside his North London flat.

He was convicted at the Old Bailey of six counts of murder and two of attempted murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment on November 4, 1983, with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of 25 years.

The sentence given to him in 1983 was later upgraded to a whole-life tariff.

Scottish-born Nilsen died in May 2018 at the Full Sutton maximum security prison.

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The 72-year-old spent his final few hours in ‘excruciating pain’, an inquest heard a year later.

Hull Coroner’s Court heard how he suffered a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm and, as a result, died while laying in his own faeces as he deteriorated over the course of ‘two-and-a-half hours’.

His medical cause of death was given as a pulmonary embolism and retroperitoneal haemorrhage.

Recording his verdict, coroner Professor Paul Marks said: “Dennis Andrew Nilsen died of natural causes.”

More stories about Des on ITV

The murderer was taken to hospital in York where he had emergency surgery.

Even though the procedure was successful, he died on May 12 after the blood loss and stress of the surgery.

Despite being left to die in his own filth after refusing the chance to be seen for longer in the hospital wing, the report from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman said the treatment Nilsen initially received in prison was ‘commensurate with that which he would have received in the community’.

Des, which is shown at 9pm on ITV tonight (September 14), Tuesday and Wednesday, focuses on the police’s arrest and prosecution of Nilsen instead of celebrating and glorifying his heinous crimes.



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