ITV drama ‘Des’ to star David Tennant as evil Dennis Nilsen

The Scottish fiend murdered boys and young men between 1978-1983.

Written by Luke Neal and developed by Luke Neal and Lewis Arnold, the series is based on material from the book Killing for Company by Brian Masters, which focuses on one of the most infamous cases in UK criminal history, that of serial killer Dennis Nilsen.

Told through the prism of three men – Dennis Nilsen played by David Tennant, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay played by Daniel Mays and biographer Brian Masters played by Jason Watkins –  Des will explore the personal and professional consequences of coming into contact with a man like Nilsen.

“This drama starts with Nilsen’s arrest and is looking at him through the eyes of the police officer trying to identify those he killed and deliver justice for them and the biographer he chose to tell his story. David Tennant is going to be brilliant as Dennis Nilsen and with Daniel Mays as Jay and Jason Watkins as Brian, this has an incredible cast to bring this story to screen and we are delighted to be making this with New Pictures for ITV.” – Polly Hill, Head of ITV Drama

The series will not only highlight the police investigation and trial but also the effect of the media coverage on public perceptions of the victims at the time, raising questions of just how far have we really come since then?

Nilsen murdered boys and young men in his flat from 1978 to 1983; his crimes going undetected for five years. It was only when DCI Peter Jay was called to Nilsen’s address on 9 February, 1983, to investigate human fragments of flesh and bone clogging the drains, that the police realised they had a serial killer on their hands.

Nilsen was arrested and convicted at the Old Bailey of six counts of murder and two of attempted murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, which was replaced by a whole life tariff in 1994. He died in May 2018.

The drama will also feature in some capacity Ron Cook, Faye McKeever, Chanel Cresswell, Barry Ward, Tony Way, Bronagh Waugh, Laurie Kynaston, Ross Anderson, Ben Bailey Smith, Jay Simpson, Silas Carson, Stuart McQuarrie, Jamie Parker, Lex Shrapnel, Gerard Horan, Joel Morris, Jonathan Coy, Amy Booth-Steel, Ken Bones, Andrew Woodall and Amaka Okafor.

“Dennis Nilsen’s crimes shocked the nation in the early 1980s. Our programme focuses on the emotional impact of those terrible crimes, both on those who came into contact with Nilsen himself, and also on the victims’ families.” – Kim Varvell, Executive Producer

Des is produced by New Pictures for ITV. Luke Neal will pen the first two episodes of three with Kelly Jones writing the third and final episode.

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