By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 12 February 2022 • 11:16
New details have emerged of a twisted escape plan that involved the convicted serial killer Dennis Nilsen, who slit an inmate’s throat after convincing him that if he attempted suicide he would be sectioned and therefore would have a better chance of escaping.
Dennis Nilsen, the Fraserburgh-born murderer, slit the man’s throat with a knife after he was unable to go through with the attempted suicide.
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. However he didn’t know Nilsen’s identity until recently according to a report in the Daily Record.
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.
At the time Cook, who was just 18 when he took part in an attack on Derek Lee who was stabbed through the heart and blasted with a shotgun outside The Coxlodge pub in Newcastle, was struggling with his mental health. That enabled Nilson to take 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 seg, 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.
“I’ve only just come to realise 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” and that he was feeling remorse for his part in the murder, as he was coming to terms with the fact there was no 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.”
With Cook opening up about the incident we now know that serial killer Dennis Nilsen slit his inmate’s throat as a favour, having convinced him suicide was the way out of prison.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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