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David Tennant to play serial killer Dennis Nilsen in ITV drama

The three-part series will explore his arrest and trial

David Tennant (Getty)
Published: Friday, 22nd November 2019 at 10:23 am

David Tennant will play serial killer Dennis Nilsen in a new ITV drama about his arrest and trial.


Nilsen killed at least 12 boys and young men from 1978 to 1983 when he was caught and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The three episode series, titled Des after the killer's commonly used nickname, is written by Luke Neal and based on Killing for Company, a book about Nilsen by biographer Brian Masters.

The story will be told from the perspective of three main characters: Nilsen himself (Tennant), Jason Watkins (The Crown) as Masters, and Daniel Mays (Line of Duty) as Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay who played an important role in the arrest.

The series will explore both the police investigation and trial, as well as the effect of media coverage on public perceptions of the victims.

Polly Hill, ITV's Head of Drama, said: "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."

The series also stars Ron Cook (Death in Paradise), Faye McKeever (A Confession) and Chanel Cresswell (The Bay).

Executive producer Kim Varvell added: "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."


Des will air on ITV in 2020


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