ITV has ordered Des, a three-part drama about the arrest and trial of serial killer Dennis “Des” Nilsen. David Tennant (Broadchurch, Good Omens) is attached to star in the lead role as Des.
Des tells the story of Nilsen (Tennant), who 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.
The three-parter is based on material from the book Killing For Company by Brian Masters and is told through the prism of three men – Dennis Nilsen, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay and biographer Brian Masters. It 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?
Rounding out the cast is Daniel Mays (Line of Duty) as Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay and Jason Watkins (The Crown) as biographer Brian Masters. 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 also star.
“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”, said ITV’s Head of Drama Poly Hill, who commissioned the series. “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.”
Des was developed by Luke Neal and Lewis Arnold, with Neal and Kelly Jones penning the scripts. It is being produced by New Pictures in association with All3Media International. David Meanti is the series producer, while Lewis Arnold is directing. The executive producers are Willow Grylls, Kim Varvell, Charlie Pattinson, Elaine Pyke, Luke Neal, Lewis Arnold and David Tennant. All3Media International will handle global sales.