THE sister of a man who survived serial killer Dennis Nilsen has described how the shocking incident had a lasting impact.

Carl Stotter was the shy young teenager who managed to escape the clutches of the murderer, depicted as “Des” by David Tennant in an ITV drama on our screens this month.

His evidence in court was crucial to securing the conviction of one of Britain’s most notorious killers, who was jailed for life in November 1983.

Nilsen murdered at least 12 young men in London between 1978 and 1983, but Carl Stotter got away.

He moved to Brighton and was a fierce campaigner for gay rights, changing his name to Khara Willis by deed poll.

He is portrayed in a haunting performance by actor Laurie Kynaston in the ITV drama.

The Argus:

Carl Stotter survived Dennis Nilsen

TV viewers were shown how a young Carl had to battle his demons and face his attacker in court, and face prejudice and homophobia outside.

At some point during Nilsen’s attack on Mr Stotter the murderer stopped and then later even walked his victim to a Tube station.

“That’s what I don’t understand,’ he said, trembling under Nilsen’s cold gaze from the dock. “Is he my murderer or my saviour?”

But his sister Julie Bentley said the impact of Nilsen on her brother stayed with him for the rest of his life, as he battled with alcoholism and drank himself to death in January 2013, aged 52.

The Argus:

Khara Willis changes his name from Carl Stotter

In an interview with the Mail Online the 46-year-old said: “Dennis Nilsen murdered my brother and completely destroyed my family.

“That question haunted Carl his whole life. Why did Nilsen let him live, but not the others? He even wrote to Nilsen in prison to ask him, but he never bothered to reply.

“‘Nilsen may not have killed his body that night, but he killed the Carl I knew and idolised as a child. He ended up in a worse hell than Nilsen, and a prison of his own.”

The drama portrayed the moment Mr Stotter was attacked by Nilsen, but survived. TV viewers saw him describe how he woke from a drunken sleep to hear Nilsen whispering “keep still”.

He said: “At first I thought he was helping me.”

The Argus:

Serial killer Dennis Nilsen

But Nilsen was tightening the zip of a sleeping bag around Carl’s neck. Passing out, he came round in a bath with Nilsen trying to drown him.

Why Nilsen then revived him, later walking him — badly injured and disorientated — to a Tube station, remained unknown.

Julie said she idolised her older brother, and remembers her father trying to hide newspaper reports of the Dennis Nilsen trial in 1983.

She believes her own son Jack was also an indirect victim, after taking his own life three years ago, aged 19, after a relationship break-up.

He had told her he did not want to “end up like uncle Carl”.

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Julie said: “The Carl we knew and loved died the day Nilsen attacked him. If that hadn’t happened, Carl could have had a happy life, my children could have had a loving relationship with their uncle, and perhaps my son would still be alive today.”

She remembers him as an intelligent, artistic and charismatic figure.

Carl came out to his parents when he was 15, and shortly after they separated, with his father telling him: “From now on, I wash my hands of you.”

But despite his father’s old fashioned outlook, the man did tell Julie that he still loved Carl.

Julie said: “He was quite effeminate, with a high-pitched voice, and everyone at school knew he was gay from quite a young age, calling him queer, but he wasn’t ashamed and knew how to stick up for himself.”

Khara had lived in Southover Street in Brighton, and changed his name from Carl Stotter to avoid the notoriety. He worked with HIV charity the Sussex Beacon in Bevendean Road, Brighton.

The Argus:

Khara Willis lived in Brighton

But sadly he was found dead in his council home on January 1, 2013 from a diabetic coma.

He had struggled with alcoholism since the original trial in 1983.

The horror of Nilsen’s crimes was revealed in the ITV drama Des, which featured actor David Tennant in the lead role as killer Nilsen. The actor said he tried to portray the killer as boring and unremarkable in the show.

It reveals how many young men went to London in the hope of finding work and living a better life, only to find themselves penniless and sleeping rough.

Nilsen targeted them, and killed at least 12. He often stored the bodies at properties he rented and disposed of the bodies in drains and by burning them. Some detectives believe there are more victims.

You can keep up to date with crime reports on our Facebook group here: Sussex crime and court watch