David Tennant to play Dennis Nilsen

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ITV logo ITV has commissioned a three-part drama, Des, following the arrest and trial of serial killer Dennis Nilsen.

Nilsen, who was known as Des, became one of the UK’s most notorious murderers when he was convicted at the Old Bailey in 1983 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.

David Tennant will play Nilsen, with Daniel Mays as Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay and Jason Watkins as biographer Brian Masters. 

Written by Luke Neal and developed by Luke Neal and Lewis Arnold, Des comes from New Pictures and is based on material from Masters’ book Killing for Company.

The executive producers are Willow Grylls, Kim Varvell, Charlie Pattinson, Elaine Pyke, Luke Neal, Lewis Arnold and David Tennant. David Meanti produces. 

Varvell said of the commission: “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.

"We’re thrilled to be working with Luke and Lewis on this project, as well as the incredible cast.”


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