David Tennant plays serial killer Dennis Nilsen in new ITV drama Des.
The new three-part series follows the arrest and trial of serial killer Dennis Nilsen, known as Des.
Written by Luke Neal and developed by Luke Neal and Lewis Arnold, the drama 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.
The series aired on TV in September, running nightly at 9PM on ITV between Monday, September 14 and Wednesday, September 16.
Dennis Nilsen is played by David Tennant with Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay played by Daniel Mays and biographer Brian Masters played by Jason Watkins.
The full cast features:
Barry Ward - DI Steve McCusker
Ron Cook - DCS Geoff Chambers
Jay Simpson - DS Chris Healey
Ben Bailey Smith - DC Brian Lodge
Bronagh Waugh - Charlotte Proctor
Faye McKeever - Linda Jay
Jamie Parker - Allan Green QC
Pip Torrens - Ivan Lawrence QC
Laurie Kynaston - Carl Stottor
Ross Anderson - Douglas Stewart
Chanel Cresswell - Lesley Mead
Andrew Woodall - Professor Hardy
Silas Carson - Russell Cavendish
Oscar Garland - Juan
Tony Way - Mike Cattran
Des will air for three episodes nightly at 9PM on ITV between Monday, September 14 and Wednesday, September 16.
Episode 1 - September 14
On 9 February 1983, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay is called to a London address where he is faced the drains clogged with rotting flesh and bones. But the extent of the grisly discovery only becomes apparent when the culprit returns from work. Dennis Nilsen, a meek man, openly admits at it’s not just one or two bodies but “15 or 16, I think”.
As the police begin work to identify the victims from scant DNA evidence and secure a conviction, biographer Brian Masters attempts to understand why. A game of chess with ‘Des’ begins, and while Brian may be exhilarated by his newest subject, he’s unaware what this new obsession could do to his life.
Episode 2 - September 15
In the second instalment, Jay and the police continue to delve into Nilsen’s memories in an effort to identify and convict him for the murder of every one of his victims. But when Des suddenly withdraws his cooperation and refuses to speak to them, there are fears justice will be lost.
Meanwhile, Des confides increasingly in Brian, which proves a unique obstacle for Jay, who has never had to deal with a criminal biographer before. As Brian’s sessions give Des the opportunity to analyse and confront the possible reasons for his crimes, he considers the prospect that he may not be guilty of murder after all.
At the pre-trial hearing, Nilsen stuns when he pleads not guilty. Brian is dumbfounded that he might be partly responsible for the sudden change of heart, while Jay is devastated that having feared he might not get justice for the nine victims they haven’t identified, now he might not even get justice for the six they have.
Episode 3 - September 16
Struggling to deal with Des’ change of plea, Jay and the police team throw themselves into proving premeditation. If they can prove to the court that Des was unquestionably of sound mind when he committed his crimes, he will go down and never be released. If they fail, Des could get a softer sentence based on diminished responsibility and potentially escape true justice.
As the trial begins and the defence start to tear strips off key witnesses, Jay and his team are shocked by just how flimsy their case against Nilsen seems to be. Meanwhile, Brian is forced to watch the trial unfold in front of him, anxiously wondering how much of an effect his ‘friendship’ with Nilsen may have had on this turn of events.
Ultimately, Nilsen was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of six counts of murder and two of attempted murder that took place between 1978 to 1983. He died in May 2018.
Alongside the drama series, documentary The Real ‘Des’: The Dennis Nilsen Story airs on Thursday, September 17 at 9PM on ITV.
You can watch online and catch up via ITV Hub here.