David Tennant to play serial killer Dennis Nilsen in new drama

Julia HuntContributor
David Tennant attending the premiere of Good Omens in London (Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images)
David Tennant attending the premiere of Good Omens in London (Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images)

David Tennant is to play serial killer Dennis Nilsen in a new drama.

The former Doctor Who star will portray the late murderer in three-part ITV series Des.

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The programme follows the arrest and trial of Nilsen, who killed boys and young men at his London homes in the 70s and 80s.

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Line Of Duty’s Daniel Mays and Jason Watkins, who is known for The Crown, are also among the cast.

The thriller is based on material from the book Killing For Company by Brian Masters.

Crime Dennis Nilsen The house of horrors killer who butchered 15 young men being led from prison van by police. (Photo by Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Crime Dennis Nilsen The house of horrors killer who butchered 15 young men being led from prison van by police. (Photo by Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

It is told through three men – the killer himself, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay (Mays) and biographer Masters (Watkins).

Nilsen committed his crimes from 1978 to 1983, killing at least 12 people.

He was found out in February 1983 when DCI Jay was called to his home to investigate human flesh and bone clogging the drains, and the police realised they were dealing with a serial killer.

Dennis Nilsen (right), with a prison warden at his side
Dennis Nilsen (right), with a prison warden at his side

Nilsen was arrested and convicted at the Old Bailey of six counts of murder and two of attempted murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, which was replaced by a whole life tariff in 1994. He died in May 2018.

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ITV said the programme would “explore how a man like Nilsen was able to prey on the young and vulnerable in 1980s Britain”.

The channel’s head of drama Polly Hill said: “This drama starts with Nilsen’s arrest and is looking at him through the eyes of the police officer trying to identify those he killed and deliver justice for them and the biographer he chose to tell his story.

“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.”

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