DENNIS Nilsen's plumber caught the serial killer after pulling lumps of flesh the size of his fist out of a drain.
Nilsen – who was convicted of the murders of 12 men at his flat in London – called plumber Michael Cattran to his home in North London to clear a blocked drain on February 8, 1983.
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Mr Cattran pulled up a manhole cover at the home and found lumps of ash inside.
He told the Mirror at the time: "There was a terrible stench when I lifted the manhole cover and climbed down 12ft to the bottom. When I got down there I couldn't believe it.
"I pulled out lumps of flesh the size of my fist and strips of flesh that looked as though they had been cut from an arm.
"There was a bit with hair on it. The flesh was so white and there was such a lot of it."
Nilsen's crimes were the subject of the three-part ITV series 'Des', which concluded last night.
While searching the killer's drain, Mr Cattran said he couldn't tell what kind of animal the flesh belonged to.
"It was all bruised up and eventually I got to thinking that it had to be a body," he said.
The plumber called his boss Gary Wheeler and told him he thought he had found a body down Nilsen's drain.
Both went back to the house the next morning, but the evidence seemed to have been washed away.
"I was determined not to be proved wrong about what I had seen so I climbed down to look for more," Mr Cattran said.
"I reached down the pipe and there was some more there – bits of what could be fingers and strips of flesh."
The plumber said he compared the fingers to his own.
"Then one of the girls who lived there came out in her dressing gown, white-faced with her hands shaking and offered to call the police," he said.
Nilsen was eventually arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment in November 1983. He died aged 72 in 2018.
While in his cell, Nilsen wrote letters to friends on the outside.
In one, he boasted of smoking cannabis in his prison cell every weekend for more than a decade.
In a letter written in his cell at top security Full Sutton near York in 2003, he revealed: “I used to smoke cannabis on weekends but the compulsory piss tests were forced on us.
“I had my last puff in this direction at the end of 1995. By saying this, I do not wish to denigrate cannabis which is often helpful as a sedative in the prison setting.
“Yes, I suppose there are risks as there is with everything deemed to be unhealthy, fatty foods, smoking, drinking, medication, air pollution etc.
“On balance it is much more beneficial than the ‘demon drink’. Have you noticed that a large proportion of crimes of violence are accompanied by alcohol?”
In another letter written in 2003 he said his family had “froze me out over 20 years ago and I now know nothing at all of them”.
KILLER'S LETTERS FOR SALE
The letters are for sale on US ‘murderbilia’ site Supernaught, selling for up to US$475 (£369) each.
Nilsen – who died of cancer aged 72 in 2018 – claimed his first victim on December 30, 1978, when 14-year-old Stephen Holmes came to his flat, drank until he fell asleep and stayed the night.
A year later, he killed 23-year-old Canadian student Kenneth Ockenden after offering to show him the sights of London.
His final victim was 20-year-old Stephen Sinclair, who went back to Nilsen’s London flat in 1983 with the promise of alcohol and a look at his record collection.
Nilsen frequented London pubs targeting men, who were often homeless, and chatting to them before luring them back to his flat where he drowned or strangled them.
The twisted killer would then often sit with their bodies for days.
He committed necrophilic acts on their bodies, then chopped them up and burned, boiled or buried the pieces.
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