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  • Writer's pictureFiona Prior

'Des', serial killing and necrophilia

Updated: Sep 27, 2021

My Saturday morning walking buddy suggested that I research the new television real crime series ‘Des’, that is about the serial killer and necrophile Dennis Nilsen, and use him as my topic for this week’s essay. (*‘Des’ is a British three-part television drama miniseries, based on the 1983 arrest of Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen, after the discovery of human remains causing the blockage of a drain near his home.)

Disclaimer: I haven’t seen ‘Des’.

image: serial killer and necrophile Dennis Nilsen

I decided to stay on theme, not focus on the television series but rather the psychopathic aberration on which it is based.

How does someone discover they are a necrophile??

I can understand sexual fetish (a sexual attraction to objects or body parts of lesser sexual importance such as feet, for those not familiar with the term). It is not such a stretch to comprehend … for example, a little one crawling under a table while its mother and girlfriends sit chatting and tipping off their heels may provoke an early erotic experience that carries through, reinforced and then searched for in later life. Likewise, any association that made an erotic impact and is forever associated with a heightened sense of arousal may constitute a sexual fetish. It could be a foot, a piece of clothing, a scent, a wrestling match. It is all about the associated arousal.

But how on earth does someone ‘just know’ they get off on sleeping with dead bodies? When the unfulfilled desire is so widely beyond anything that could be modelled or based on a life experience, so wildly beyond anything that could in any way be seen as acceptable, and where the perpetrator actually has to acquire a dead body to fulfil?

image: 'Hatred (Derr Has)' 1896, by Pietro Pajetta

I was pointed (walking buddy again) to the Wikipedia entrance for Des Nilsen. The Wiki entry explains in detail the slow evolution of Des’ psychopathic behaviour from sexually confused young man … to a human being devoid of empathy and who could only sexually consider ‘others’ as a means to satisfy his own physical desires. (I know that Wiki is sometimes poo-pooed but when the articles comes with great click-through footnotes I have no problems. It also saves me from having to list Des' perversions as they have given the full chronological life journey of this necrophile serial killer)

Take a look if you dare.

I don’t think I’ll be watching ‘Des’, though the series has received accolades and actor David Tennant has been honoured for his portrayal of Dennis Nilsen.

Tennant will always be 'Dr Who' to me.

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