It all began with a call from the man from Dyno-Rod. He wasn’t one hundred per cent sure, but sure enough, he said, that someone had been flushing body parts down the toilet.
There was a forearm here. A foot there. Police were on the spot. Mirror reporter Doug Bence took the details, then dashed to the alleged crime scene.
The house at 23 Cranley Gardens, Muswell Hill, North London, was respectable enough. A part-timbered, Dutch-gabled, three-storey affair.
If you stuck your head out of the top window, a whole swathe of East London, stretching to Epping Forest, lay before you.
Meanwhile, as Bence recorded the awful discoveries in suburban Muswell Hill, I took a call from a contact saying further inquiries were about to take place in a house in Melrose Avenue, Cricklewood, about four miles away.
It was a bitterly cold February evening with snow beginning to fall as I arrived. There was no answer to my knock. Then: “What are you doing here?” asked a policeman, who had just arrived.
“Waiting for you and your colleagues,” I replied. The officer looked baffled.”What do you mean?” he pressed, “I’ve just been asked to keep an eye on this place.”
So I told him who had owned a flat here, how he’d claimed to have murdered 15 men and disposed of many of their bodies in the back garden. “F*** me,” the policeman gasped, “No one told me.”
And, for the next week and more, police stood watch outside as forensics scoured the back garden for bone, after bone after bone.
Some five days after starting my watch there, I decided to walk around Gladstone Park, abutting Nilsen’s back garden. The kind of place used by dog walkers.
And it was not long before I fell into conversation with a man of about my age – 32 – who told me his dog had retrieved several odd-looking bones from the scrub and bushes at the park’s edge.
He specifically pointed to one area – right behind Nilsen’s old place. “A boneyard,” he called it. He’d been to the police, who’d seemed to take his story seriously. But nothing came of it. Until that point.
And so the weeks ground on as the Mirror’s exclusive became just the first part of a gruesome tale. One of a single gay man, a fantasist who mainly preyed on other gay men. A man who found his victims among the homeless and the trusting.
Bring them home. Strangle them. Drown them in the bath. Then dry them. Dress them again. And let them keep him company in bed.
It was not long after that I saw him in the flesh. A Saturday morning at Highgate magistrates court. A man of mild expression, floppy hair. And all one could see was a face I vaguely recognised as that quiet bloke I occasionally saw in the Royal Oak, St James’s Lane, a pub five minutes from Nilsen’s “House of Horror” and only a few minutes more from mine.
The quiet bloke. The one with the dog. An ex-copper someone said. A man driven by demons. A monster. That quiet dog-lover in the corner.