Press Centre

Des

  • Episode:

    1 of 3

  • Transmission (TX):

    Mon 14 Sep 2020

  • TX Confirmed

    Yes

  • Time

    9.00pm - 10.00pm

  • Week:

    Week 38 2020 : Sat 12 Sep - Fri 18 Sep

  • Channel:

    ITV

  • Published:

    Wed 02 Sep 2020

The information contained herein is embargoed from all Press, online, social media, non-commercial publication or syndication - in the public domain - until Tuesday 8 September 2020.

Des

Series overview

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. 

After his arrest, Nilsen was astonishing in his honesty: admitting outright to all fifteen murders in the police car outside his flat. But infuriatingly for the investigating detectives, he couldn’t remember any of his victims’ names. With no apparent motive, inconclusive forensic evidence and most of Nilsen’s victims living off-grid, the police started the biggest manhunt investigation in UK history. This time not for the murderer, but for the murdered.

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.

Episode 1

On 9 February 1983, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay 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.

Cast

Dennis Nilsen - David Tennant 
DCI Peter Jay - Daniel Mays 
Jason Watkins - Brian Masters
Barry Ward - DI Steve McCusker
Ron Cook - DCS Geoff Chambers
Jay Simpson - DS Chris Healey
Ben Bailey Smith - DC Brian Lodge 
Bronagh Waugh - Charlotte Proctor 
Faye McKeever  - Linda Jay
Jamie Parker - Allan Green QC 
Pip Torrens - Ivan Lawrence QC 
Laurie Kynaston - Carl Stottor 
Ross Anderson - Douglas Stewart 
Chanel Cresswell - Lesley Mead 
Andrew Woodall - Professor Hardy 
Silas Carson - Russell Cavendish 
Oscar Garland - Juan
Tony Way - Mike Cattran