Episode 299:

London & England

Scottish Serial Killer Dennis Nilsen


The Story of Detective Jack Whicher and the Road Hill House Murder


Episode 299: London & England

On today's episode, Karen covers Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen and Georgia tells the story of Detective Jack Whicher and the Road Hill House murder.

Listen on Apple Podcasts. Listen on Spotify

Scottish Serial Killer Dennis Nilsen

Scottish Serial Killer Dennis Nilsen Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash 

Other Images:

Dennis Nilsen mugshot (UK Police via The Sun)

Stephen Holmes (via Daily Star)

Malcolm Barlow (via The Sun)


"Dennis Andrew Nilsen (23 November 1945 – 12 May 2018) was a Scottish serial killer and necrophile who murdered at least twelve young men and boys between 1978 and 1983 in London. Convicted at the Old Bailey of six counts of murder and two of attempted murder, Nilsen was sentenced to life imprisonment on 4 November 1983, with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of twenty-five years. This recommendation was later changed to a whole life tariff in December 1994. In his later years, Nilsen was imprisoned at Full Sutton maximum security prison.

All of Nilsen's murders were committed at the two North London addresses where he lived between 1978 and 1983. His victims would be lured to these addresses through deception and killed by strangulation, sometimes accompanied by drowning. Following each murder, Nilsen would observe a ritual in which he bathed and dressed the victim's body, which he retained for extended periods of time, before dissecting and disposing of the remains by burning them in a bonfire or flushing them down a toilet.

Nilsen became known as the Muswell Hill Murderer, as he committed his later murders in the Muswell Hill district of North London. He died at York Hospital on 12 May 2018 of a pulmonary embolism and a retroperitoneal haemorrhage, which occurred following surgery to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm..."

— Source: Dennis Nilsen Wikipedia

The Story of Detective Jack Whicher and the Road Hill House Murder

The Story of Detective Jack Whicher and the Road Hill House Murder Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash 

Other Images:

Cranley Gardens (Chris Whippet via Wikipedia)

Depiction of baby Saville Kent being taken from the bedroom (via truecrimeengland.wordpress.com)

Road Hill House (via goddessofhellfire.wordpress.com)


"Jonathan Whicher was one of the original members of the Detective Branch which had been established at Scotland Yard in 1842. In 1860 he was called in to assist the investigation into the horrific murder of a child (Francis) Savile Kent who was just short of his fourth birthday.  Savile is sometimes spelled differently.  The child had been taken from the nursemaid's bedroom at night and was found, with his throat cut, in an outside privy in the garden of his family's house the next morning. The murder brought notoriety to the small village of Road, Wiltshire.

In the house lived Samuel Savile Kent, a factory inspector with ambitions for promotion, who had suffered from the effects of local gossip and disapproval, and had therefore moved house several times. His first wife, Mary Ann, bore no fewer than 10 children between 1829 and 1845, one of whom, Constance Emily, was born in February 1844. Samuel Kent was rumoured to have started an affair with the resident governess, Mary Drew Pratt, and after his wife had suddenly died in May 1852, he married the governess in August 1853. She eventually bore him five other children, including, in 1856, Francis Savile Kent, the murder victim.

When the nursemaid, Elizabeth Gough, reported the child missing at 7.15am to Mrs Kent, a search commenced for him, but Mr Kent personally drove off to Trowbridge to inform Superintendent Foley rather than relying on the local police to pass a message, and seemed to have more knowledge about the details of the crime than he later admitted.

A controversial inquest took place, in which the coroner first restricted the witnesses to servants of the house, police officers and medical practitioners. It needed the jury to insist that the family itself be questioned. The coroner went to the house and even then questioned only Constance and her brother William. Mr and Mrs Kent were never formally examined.

Whicher was called in to help, and started his enquiries by concentrating on a missing nightdress belonging to Constance. He established that Constance had had an opportunity to have withdrawn another of her night garments from the laundry basket as a ruse to blame the shortage of night wear on to the local woman who did the household's laundry. He reported his suspicions to the magistrates. There was also other circumstantial evidence.

The magistrates directed Constance's arrest and gave Whicher seven days to prepare the case against her. Mr Kent provided a barrister for his daughter who dominated proceedings. Constance was released on bail and the case was later dropped. The reaction in the newspapers was sympathetic to Constance and Whicher was heavily criticised.   His reputation never recovered. The nightdress was never found and Whicher returned to London.

Subsequently the local police conducted a prosecution against Elizabeth Gough, but that also failed..."

— Source: History by the Yard