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David Tennant Stars In ITV Crime Series 'Des' About Serial Killer

David Tennant Stars In ITV Crime Series 'Des' About Serial Killer

The actor will be taking on one of the darkest roles of his career.

Ciara Sheppard

Ciara Sheppard

*This article contains information that may cause distress.*

A new ITV true crime drama is set to hit screens this autumn, with David Tennant taking on the role of sadistic serial killer Dennis Nilsen, one of the most prolific in UK history.

Des, landing on the channel later this year, will be told through the prism of three men: detective Peter Jay (played by Daniel Mays) who arrested the killer, biographer Brian Masters (Jason Watkins) and Nilsen himself (Tennant).

David Tennant is taking on the role of the sadistic serial killer (
London Met Police/ITV)

Often referred to as the 'kindly killer' for his calm nature and honesty when being interviewed, Nilsen murdered up to 16 boys and men in his North London flat between 1978 and 1983.

Nielsen's victims were often homeless or living off grid, susceptible to the generosity of strangers.

Once back at Nilsen's, he would strangle them - sometimes combined with drowning - before observing a ritual in which he would bathe and dress the victim's bodies, which he would keep for long periods of time.

Nilsen was arrested in 1983 (

Sick Nilsen would also perform sex acts on the bodies, before dissecting them and disposing of the parts by burning them on a bonfire or flushing them down the toilet.

Suspicion was first raised by a plumber who responded to complaints by tenants of 23 Cranley Gardens, where Nilsen lived. Opening a drain cover, the plumber found it packed with flesh-like substance and bones.

Chillingly, hearing the plumber thought it looked like human flesh, Nilsen exclaimed among a group of tenants: "It looks to me like someone has been flushing down their Kentucky Fried Chicken."

Nilsen admitted to killing 15 men (

The following morning, the plumber arrived back with his supervisor to find the drain had been cleared. Finding it suspicious, they contacted the police who were advised the blockage was coming from Nilsen's home on the top floor.

Police waited until Nilsen returned home from his job as a civil servant, and upon stepping in his property, were overwhelmed by the stench of rotting flesh.

Realising he had been caught, Nilsen told police where the body parts were being kept and said: "It's a long story; it goes back a long time. I'll tell you everything. I want to get it off my chest. Not here - at the police station".

When asked if the remains belonged to one or two bodies, Nilsen said: "Fifteen or sixteen, since 1978".

The crimes took place in two of Nilsen's flats in north London (

One of the most frustrating things for investigators was that Nilsen couldn't remember any of his victims' names, making it difficult for justice to be served - something which is explored heavily in the upcoming drama.

"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," says ITV.

The killer was unusually honest when telling detectives about his crimes (

"While Detective Peter Jay 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 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 serial killer? And, if we try, what price do we pay?"

This sounds like it will be an unbelievably gripping watch.

While there's no release date for Des yet, we know it's coming in autumn. We'll keep you posted.

Featured Image Credit: ITV

Topics: TV News, TV Entertainment, ITV