Dennis Nilsen shared his private thoughts about Jeffrey Dahmer - and their very similar murders


Dennis Nilsen (left) was apprehended in 1983. 8 years prior to Dahmer
Dennis Nilsen (left) was apprehended in 1983. 8 years prior to Dahmer

Dennis Nilsen and Jeffrey Dahmer are often called the British/American equivalents of one another, but it was Brian Masters, author of biopics about both of them, who managed to bridge the gap between the two serial killers.


In a truly stunning piece of writing for a 1991 issue of Vanity Fair magazine, Masters coaxed Nilsen in to musing - Hannibal Lecter style - about the horrors that that had unfolded across the Atlantic Ocean in Milwaukee, WI, offering his 'expert' opinion about what might have spurred Dahmer in to killing and butchering 17 men between 1978 and 1991.



At the time Nilsen was serving a life sentence at HMP Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight, where he had been transferred after an inmate at HMP Wormwood Scrubs had slashed him across the face with a razor.


He, like Dahmer, was responsible for a trail of needless and heartbreaking deaths within the gay community, and like the then 31-year-old, had been driven to murder by loneliness, lust and twisted sexual fetishes.


Both men fantasised about having total control over a passive sexual partner, and would keep their bodies around their home, sometimes using corpses or dissected limbs for personal gratification. They both wore similar, 'serial killer' specs, as also seen on Rose West and Charles Ng.


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The article appeared in a 1991 issue of Vanity Fair magazine
The article appeared in a 1991 issue of Vanity Fair magazine

Masters wrote that Nilsen was of the belief that Dahmer would have felt, on his arrest, "an immediate sense of relief that it was all over" - similar to when he himself was arrested. Nilsen referred to that day as "the day that help arrived."


Nilsen elaborated: "[Dahmer] couldn’t leave his apartment. He was trapped, stuck in that prison as in a tomb. There was both attraction and repulsion and at the moment it’s repulsion which will predominate. He will feel an immediate sense of relief that it’s all over, followed by oppressive guilt and shame.


"He will need to get through this somehow and find some self-esteem to help grow towards maturity. Whatever institution he goes to will be better than the prison he has been carrying around with him, because people will be there, and he will not be alone anymore."


Masters continues: “Nilsen also thinks that Dahmer might not have properly ‘come out’ yet, and that had he felt less ambiguous about his homosexuality the murders might conceivably not have occurred."



“‘When Dahmer lost his job,’ continues Nilsen, ‘he lost the only visible means of normality. After that, things could only get worse. Had he not been caught, bodies would have been coming out of the window. He was feeling like an alien in a hostile environment, without any roots whatsoever.’”


Another insight from 'Des' was that Dahmer was most likely LYING about being a cannibal - a view shared by some of the police officers who investigated the case.


He wrote to Masters: “He is talking subconsciously. It’s a kind of wishful thinking. What he really wants is spiritual ingestion, to take the essence of the person into himself and thereby feel bigger. It’s almost a paternal thing, in an odd way.”