TV & Movies

David Tennant Portrays An Infamous British Serial Killer In A Terrifying New Series

But what happened to the subject of ITV's Des in real life?


The story of Dennis Nilsen is the subject of ITV's highly-anticipated true-crime drama, which follows the arrest and subsequent trial of an infamous British serial killer. David Tennant leads the cast of the upcoming series, and will portray the man accused of murdering at least 15 people. But where is Dennis Nilsen now?

As the BBC reports, Nilsen died in prison on May 12, 2018 at Full Sutton Prison in East Yorkshire at the age of 72. He had undergone an operation but suffered a blood clot which led to internal bleeding. His official medical cause of death was pulmonary embolism (a blockage in the lungs) and retroperitoneal haemorrhage (bleeding on the brain).

The man nicknamed the Muswell Hill murderer was sentenced to life in prison on November 4, 1983 after being found guilty of six counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder. Nilsen admitted to killing around 15 men and boys throughout the 1970s and 80s, and reportedly befriended his victims in pubs and bars before inviting them back to his flat, where he would later murder them. His crimes were eventually uncovered when a plumber found human remains in the drains outside of Nilsen's flat in North London.

ITV's Des will retell the harrowing details of this true-crime story, and delve into a police investigation which led to the arrest and eventual conviction of Nilsen.

"Des will explore how a man like Nilsen was able to prey on the young and vulnerable in 1980s Britain," an official ITV synopsis reads. "The series will not only highlight the police investigation and trial but also the effect of the media coverage on public perceptions of the victims at the time, raising questions of just how far have we really come since then.”

As the Radio Times reports, the story will be told from the perspective of Nilsen, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay, and biographer Brian Masters — who are portrayed by Doctor Who's David Tennant, White Lines star Daniel Mays, and The Crown's Jason Watkins, respectively.

Commenting on the upcoming series, ITV’s Head of Drama, Polly Hill, praised the show's "incredible cast."

"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.”

Des is coming to ITV in September.