David Tennant will play the serial killer in a new three-part ITV drama which follows his arrest and trial.
Des is written by Luke Neal (episodes one and two) and Kelly Jones (episode three), developed by Luke Neal and Lewis Arnold and 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.
Today's first look image recreates the famous mug shot on the day of Nilsen’s arrest in February 1983. Alongside David Tennant as Dennis Nilsen, Daniel Mays will play Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay and Jason Watkins will play biographer Brian Masters. The story is told through the prism of these three men, exploring the personal and professional consequences of coming into contact with a man like Nilsen.
Nilsen murdered boys and young men in his flat from 1978 to 1983. He was undetected for five years, and it was only when DCI Peter Jay was called to 23 Cranley Gardens 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.
Dennis 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.
Told from both the police and Masters’ point of view, Des will explore how a man like Nilsen was able to prey on the young and vulnerable in 1980s Britain. 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?
Addition cast include 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.
Des will air in 2020 on ITV