Serial killer Dennis Nilsen slit inmate’s throat as ‘favour’ in twisted escape plan


Serial killer Dennis Nilsen cut a fellow prisoner’s throat as part of a twisted escape plan, it has emerged.

The Fraserburgh-born murderer convinced another inmate that if he attempted suicide, he would be sectioned and moved to a hospital where he would have a better chance of escaping.

But when the fellow con was unable to go through with it, Nilsen took the knife and did it for him.

Steven Cook, who served 17 years for murder, spent six months on a wing with the Scots murderer, who killed 12 boys and men in a five-year-reign of terror. But he didn’t know Nilsen’s identity until recently.

The 46-year-old, who was released from Durham prison in 2012, said he met the man he knew as “Dessie” in 1994 in the hospital wing of the prison while on remand awaiting trial.

Murderer Steven Cook who has been free since 2012
Murderer Steven Cook who has been free since 2012

Cook was just 18 when he took part in a shocking attack during which victim Derek Lee was stabbed through the heart and blasted with a shotgun outside The Coxlodge pub in Newcastle.

He said he was struggling with mental health when Nilsen took him under his wing.

Cook said: “When I landed on the hospital wing, there was five serial killers and one hitman in Durham prison – Robert Maudsley in the cat A sec, Scot Robert Black on C wing, Myra Hindley and Rose West on the hospital wing and Nilsen on the constant observation ward in the prison hospital.

Dennis Nilsen Mass Murderer and convicted killer in jail
Dennis Nilsen spent six months in the same wing as Steven Cook

“I’ve only just come to realize that the thin, older Scottish guy called Dessie, who I got to know as a friend, was Dennis Nilsen.

“I’m a little taken back about what went down between Dessie and I.

“I started in prison as a. provisional cat A prisoner in a single cell on the hospital wing.

“The officers would unlock me for one-hour association every night. This is when I met Dessie.

“What I liked about him was the way he articulated himself.

“He came across as anti-authority, had been in prison a while, knew the score about the officers and helped me calm my mind enough to contemplate how I was going to deal with my pending life sentence in a positive way.”

Cook said he had been struggling with “what he had become”, felt remorse for his part in the murder and that there was no chance at redemption for what he had done.

He said: “I was suicidal. I was totally disgusted with what I had become.

“Everything about me was wrong. In my mind, I had no chance at reform.

“Dessie told me that wasn’t true. He said there were prisons like Grendon, in Buckinghamshire, which could help people like me become good people.

“He said he kept in touch with [the Record columnist]who was assistant governor at Grendon, and they would help me if he wrote them a letter.

“Dessie said I should go to Wormwood Scrubs first, where I’d get a TV, which would help my head settle down.

“Then after three or four years, apply for Grendon and he [Prof Wilson] would help me.

“However, I still had my murder trial to deal with, facing the fiscal consequences of my actions, coming face to face with my victim’s family and facing the emotional consequences.

“I couldn’t bear the thought of going through a trial.

“All I could think about was how McVicar had escaped from Durham prison and I needed to find a way to escape.

“I’d been on the hospital wing for about six months when I made my decision to escape.

“I trusted Dessie and he told me he knew a way to escape from prison.

“All I needed to do was slash myself in a certain way and I could get sectioned to a mental hospital.

“Then I would find it much easier to escape.

“It was the topic of discussion on the ward for weeks. To get on the 20-bed constant observation ward, you have to be really ill or suicidal.

“At the time I didn’t believe that if I cut myself I would get sectioned.

“Dessie kept telling me that I would get sectioned as long as I cut myself in the right way.

“He said he’d prove it and that there was a few of the lads on the ward who wanted to give it a go.

“Dessie told me the only problem was no one had the guts to slash themselves the way Dessie told them to.

“The lads wanted Dessie to slash them so they could get sectioned.

“I remember him slashing three inmates – bad cuts in the right places that got them sectioned.

“It convinced me my escape was on.”

Cook, who now lives in County Durham, said he couldn’t bring himself to self-harm – so he asked his friend Dessie to do it.

He added: “The only solution was to ask Dessie to cut me.

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“The problem was when I talked to Dessie, he said that he couldn’t cut me on the ward on association as it wouldn’t be believable. We’d have to get padded up together for it to work.

“On the first night being padded up with Dessie, I got him to slash my right arm.

“It was very deep and about two inches long. I was stitched up and sent back to my cell.

“Dessie then told me the reason our plan was not working was because there had been too many slashings of late.

“He said the only way this would work was if he slashed my throat then they would have to act and section me.

“That next night I let Dessie cut the right side of my throat and I got sectioned that night.

“After my escape from St Luke’s Hospital and return back to Durham prison hospital, Dessie was gone, shipped out, no one knew where to.”

He added: “Dessie got me hooked on heroin and was most definitely a heroin addict in prison, maybe on the outside as well.

“’The Kindly Killer’ is a fitting name. I wonder if Dennis Nilsen carried on killing while in prison custody, but in a different way before he got natural life and was sent to Full Sutton?”

“All the years I didn’t know Dessie was Dennis Nilsen until now.

“I am left feeling shocked how close I came to nearly being killed by Britain’s worst serial killer.

“However, my trial, and standing in the dock facing my victim’s family, is still the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced and that sits OK with me.”

Nilsen died in 2018, more than 35 years after being caged for life for killing up to 15 men he picked up from the streets.

He strangled or drowned his victims before dissecting them, between 1978 and 1983, at addresses in London.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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