ITV has commissioned a new ITV drama, Des, starring David Tennant (Good Omens) as the serial killer Dennis Nilsen.
The drama is based on the book Killing for Company by Brian Masters and will follow the arrest and trial of Nielsen – also known as the 'Muswell Hill Murderer' – in one of the most infamous cases in UK criminal history.
Written by Luke Neal and developed by Neal and Lewis Arnold, the drama will be told through the prism of three men, Nielsen, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay (Daniel Mays, Line of Duty) and biographer Brian Masters (Jason Watkins, The Crown).
Between 1978 and 1983 it is believed Nielsen murdered up to 15 men – most of whom were thought to be homeless homosexuals – in his North London home, remaining undetected for five years.
On 9 February 1983, DCI Peter Jay was called to 23 Cranley Gardens to investigate drains that were clogged with fragments of human flesh and bone, which alerted the police to a potential serial killer on their hands.
Nielsen was arrested and convicted of six counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment with the recommendation he serve a minimum of 25 years, and in 1994 this was upgraded to a whole-life tariff. He died in May 2018 due to a ruptured aneurysm.
The drama will be told from the police and Masters’ point of view and will examine how Nielsen was able to prey on young vulnerable men without detection for so long.
The police investigation and subsequent media coverage on public perceptions of the victims will be highlighted, asking the question how far society has really come since then.
The series is produced by New Pictures in association with all3media international for ITV.
Kim Varvell, executive producer for New Pictures, said: “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.”