ITV announced today that Des starring Daniel Mays, David Tennant, Jason Watkins, and others will premiere on Monday 14 September at 9PM on ITV. Episodes 2 & 3 follow on Wednesday & Thursday 15 & 16 September.
Des is a true-crime drama focusing on one of the most infamous criminal cases in UK history, Dennis Nilsen. Known as the ‘kindly killer’, Nilsen (David Tennant) was a local civil servant who spent five years murdering boys and young men he met on the streets of Soho from 1978 to 1983. He would meet and befriend these men before offering them food or lodgings for the evening back at his North London flat. His victims were often homeless or living off grid, having slipped through the cracks of 1980s society and were therefore welcoming of this stranger’s apparent generosity. When he was finally caught on 9 February 1983, Nilsen had murdered a total of fifteen men over a period of five years, making him Britain’s most prolific serial killer of the time.
The story is told through the prism of three isolated men – a detective, a biographer, and Nilsen himself. While Detective Peter Jay (Daniel Mays) and the police investigation’s attempt to get justice for as many victims as possible provides the narrative and emotional spine, the relationship between Nilsen and his biographer Brian Masters (Jason Watkins) allows us to delve into the mind of one of the most emotionally elusive serial killers the world has ever seen. Can we ever really understand the mind of a psychopathic killer? And, if we try, what price do we pay?
Des is written by Luke Neal and developed by Luke Neal and Lewis Arnold based on material from the book Killing for Company by Brian Masters. The series is Directed by Lewis Arnold, Produced by David Meanti and Executive Produced by Willow Grylls, Kim Varvell, Charlie Pattinson and Elaine Pyke for New Pictures, Polly Hill for ITV and Lewis Arnold, Luke Neal and David Tennant.
On 9 February 1983, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay (Daniel Mays) is called to the leafy North London address of 23 Cranley Gardens, where he discovers the drains clogged with rotting flesh and bones. But the extent of this grisly discovery only becomes apparent when the culprit returns from work. Dennis Nilsen, a meek man, freely admits to the police that it’s not just one or two bodies but “15 or 16, I think”. How had they allowed this to happen under their noses for five years, and what had driven this seemingly ordinary civil servant to commit such atrocities?
As the police try to secure a conviction and identify the victims from scant DNA evidence, biographer Brian Masters attempts to understand why. A game of chess with ‘Des’ begins, and while Brian may be exhilarated by his newest subject, he’s unaware what this new obsession could do to his life.
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