As a frigid and miserable night plumber, Michael Catran was called to 23 Cranley Gardens to clear the clogged drainage. It seemed like a chore for the 29-year-old.
The Daily Mirror reported on February 11, 1983: “When the cover of the drain manhole was lifted into the drain it opened a door to horror.”
“As Mike darted deeper down the drain and found clumps of ash. Further investigations confirmed that the horrific discovery was evidence of mass murder.”
This was an extraordinary moment Denise Nielsen The gruesome murders finally happened to him. Our reporting has appeared in the ITV three-part drama, Des, Starring David Tennant As the serial killer, who captured six million viewers this week.
In the first episode, Mike, played by Tony Way, alerted the mirror to the story because the police “didn’t believe him.”
Principal investigator DCI Peter JayPlayed before Daniel MaysThen, he strongly waved a copy of the mirror at the police station when our story erupted. Known as the “Cute Killer,” Nielsen was a former civil servant and police officer.
Over five years in 1978 he killed the vulnerable boys and young men he found on the streets of Soho.
He befriended his victims, who often needed food or shelter, and then lured them back to his apartment in Mosswell Hill, north London and then strangled them.
On February 8, 1983, Mike went to the property and made a shocking discovery. This led to Nielsen’s arrest the next day and his admission that he had killed up to 15 people, before continuing to dismember and dispose of their bodies.
Mike told his amazing account to The Mirror in an exclusive interview with our team on Earth. He was terrifying in the details.
“I could tell it was full, so it was the blockage between that and the manhole cover,” Mike told reporters.
“There was a foul smell when I lifted the manhole cover and went 12 feet to the bottom. When I got there I couldn’t believe it.
“I went down again with a plunger. When I pushed it down toward the electrical current, the whole group moved and my bottles were gone.
There was very little hair on it. The flesh was very white and there was a lot of it.
“I was trying to think about what kind of animal it could be. While I was walking around, I thought it was clearly not a dog, and there was no fur. It’s not a chicken – not a lot of it.
“Everything was bruised and at the end I thought it had to be a body.”
Shocked, Mike called his boss, Gary Wheeler, and told him he thought he had found a dead body in the drain.
They returned the next morning, thinking it would be better to return in broad daylight.
But all the evidence was washed away overnight.
Nielsen was spotted by neighbors during the night.
Mike continued, “I was determined not to be wrong with what I saw, so I went down to look for more.”
I got to the bottom of the tube and there was more there –
Parts of what could be fingers and steaks.
“My fingers lined up with my fingers and I thought it could be that piece from the palm to the first joint and the other pieces to the second joint.
Then one of the girls who lived there came out wearing her robe, with a white face and shaking hands, and offered to call the police.
After receiving hints from Mike, the mirror tracks Nielsen’s mother, Betty Scott, into her home in Aberdeenshire. We got our first interview with her as well as some childhood photos of her son.
From her home in the village of Strichen, near where Nilsen grew up, she told how he once was a promising art student.
She said, “He was a happy child and I loved him there and then.”
She raised three children without the help of a husband.
Seldom was there and only when there was a problem.
“Everyone thought art was what he would do, but one day he came back from school and said, ‘Mum, I want to join the army.’
He passed all his exams and I was proud of him.
“Until then he was like my other kids and didn’t stand out in any way.”
In a later BBC interview, when Nielsen was found guilty of six murders, she said, “He must be sick or something. It’s not Dennis that I knew him doing this.”
Tonight’s ITV documentary, The Real ‘Des’: The Dennis Nilsen Story, features horrific footage of the killer, which has not been seen in over 30 years.
Relatives of the victims are also shown speaking for the first time.
Nielsen passed away at the age of 72 in 2018 after falling ill in prison.
Dees wraps up tonight on ITV.