The crimes of Dennis Nilsen will once again be explored this week in ITV's documentary The Real 'Des': The Dennis Nilsen Story, just days after the drama series Des.


Nilsen was known for killing at least 12 young men in London during the 80s, before confessing to the crimes and later passing away in prison.

Narrated by Des star David Tennant, the hour-long film will look deeper into Nilsen's crimes, charting his life from his early days right through to his role as a civil servant when he began his five-year killing spree.

So when is it on? What's it about? And is it any different to Des? has all you need to know.

When is The Real 'Des': The Dennis Nilsen Story on?

The Real 'Des': The Dennis Nilsen story will air on ITV on Thursday September 17th at 9pm.

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How to watch The Real 'Des': The Dennis Nilsen Story

Viewers can watch the hour-long documentary when it airs on ITV. It will also be made available to stream on the ITV Hub once it has been broadcasted.

What is The Real 'Des': The Dennis Nilsen Story about?

The documentary looks at the true story of the serial killer Dennis Nilsen - who was known for killing at least 12 young men in London during the 80s.

It will detail Nilsen’s moves between 1978 and 1983, after which he admitted to killing as many as 15 young men.

Following his life from his early days joining the army as a cook to his brief stint as a police officer, the doc will eventually arrive at Nilsen's role as a civil servant which is the job he was doing when started his murders.

The Real 'Des': The Dennis Nilsen story will explore the mind of Nilsen, while providing archive footage and expert commentary from those who were involved or interested in the case.

The Real 'Des': The Dennis Nilsen Story
The Real 'Des' ITV

Among them is David Wilson, who interviewed Nilsen and received correspondence from him over the many years when he was in prison.

Speaking of his conversations with Nilsen, Criminologist and author Wilson, told The Herald Magazine: “I was often merely a prop for him to have a conversation with himself and was only occasionally allowed – or expected – to ask a question."

The documentary will feature previously unseen archive footage, including that of the infamous interview Nilsen gave when he was in Albany Prison in 1992.

It was rare for a serial killer to be as open Nilsen - who told the police from the moment of his 1983 arrest there were “15 or 16” bodies since 1978. This is something the documentary will explore in detail.

Interviews with families of Nilsen’s victims will also feature in the documentary.

Is The Real 'Des' different to Des?

The Real 'Des' is slightly different to the drama series in the sense that he provides a fuller picture of Nilsen's life before the crimes, the moments leading up to the murders, and his arrest.

Des, focused solely on the moment police came to investigate the crimes that had taken place at Nilsen’s Muswell Hill flat, leading to his arrest.

David Tennant as Dennis Nilsen, and Jason Watkins as his biographer, Brian Masters. ITV

It looked at the serial killer’s story from several angles, including that of Nilsen himself, as well as a DCI Peter Jay (played by Daniel Mays) leading the investigation and a biographer named Brian Masters (Jason Watkins) who interviewed Nilsen and wrote the book Killing for Company: The Story of a Man Addicted to Murder which the drama is based on.


The Real 'Des': The Dennis Nilsen Story airs on ITV on Thursday, 17th September at 9pm. Des is available to watch on catch up on the ITV Hub. You can buy Brian Masters’ original biography on Dennis Nilsen, Killing for Company, on Amazon. Find out what else to watch with our TV Guide