ITV has commissioned Des, a three-part drama that follows the arrest and trial of serial killer Dennis Nilsen, to be played by David Tennant (Good Omens, Broadchurch).
The series will be told through the prism of three men: Nilsen, known as Des; Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay, played by Daniel Mays (Line of Duty, Temple); and biographer Brian Masters, played by Jason Watkins (The Crown, The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies). Written by Luke Neal and developed by Neal and Lewis Arnold, the drama is based on material from the book Killing for Company by Brian Masters.
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 to investigate human fragments of flesh and bone clogging the drains that the police realized they had a serial killer on their hands.
The series is produced by New Pictures (Catherine The Great, The Missing) in association with all3media international for ITV. all3media international will distribute the series internationally.
ITV’s head of drama, Polly Hill, said: “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.”
Kim Varvell, executive producer for New Pictures, added: “Dennis Nilsen’s crimes shocked the nation in the early 1980s. Our program 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. We’re thrilled to be working with Luke and Lewis on this project, as well as the incredible cast.”