How accurate is ITV’s show about serial killer Dennis Nilson?
Des is ITV’s three-part miniseries about Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilson. The miniseries stars David Tenant as Nilson and has been getting good ratings with lots of viewers tuning in. Des is based on the true story surrounding Nilson’s killings as well as the police investigation into his murders.
With any movie or TV series that is based on a true story, there are factual depictions of events while other events may be dramatized. Some elements of Des may not be totally accurate. Here is some information on just how Des lines up with the true story.
Depiction of Dennis Nilsen
Nilsen killed twelve young men between the years of 1978 & 1983. He was arrested in 1983. Tenant received praise for his portrayal of Nilsen, giving a chilling performance as the serial killer.
According to The Tab online publication, a detective, Brian Lodge, who was involved in the case, said that Tenant’s portrayal of Nilsen was accurate. Nilsen was known as being rather shy & nonchalant, but also unnerving due to the nature of his crimes. Lodge said the series gave viewers a “realistic sight of what Nilsen was.”
Nilsen’s house of horrors
One scene in the show features the police investigating Nilsen’s home to find evidence of his murders. The investigators find body parts & bones stored all over the house, including a head that had been boiled in a pot.
Lodge confirmed this was accurate, including the boiled head in a pot. According to The Tab, the smell in the house was “unbearable.” Nilsen did store body parts in drawers, under floorboards, cupboards, and even in the garden. Lodge reportedly bagged up “over 1000 pieces of evidence” including body parts, bones, and weapons.
Police procedure was inaccurate
Lodge, in his interview with The Tab, said that the police procedure, as shown in Des, was largely inaccurate. In the show, police confront Nilsen in his cell about the murder of Stephen Sinclair – Lodge said that this never happened.
“That was not the correct procedure,” Lodge said. “He would have been taken to a charge room and all would have been recorded and then charged.”
Des also shows detectives executing fingerprint examinations at the police station, which Lodge said never happened. Lodge says that Peter Jay, who headed up the investigation, was not correctly portrayed as he did not lose his temper as he did in the miniseries.
Lodge also says that there were important aspects of the investigation that were left out. Des didn’t include the investigators going to the families of the victims to inform them about what happened. Lodge also said that interviewing young men who fit the profiles of the people Nilsen murdered was a crucial part of the investigation that was not shown in the series.
Des may not be 100% accurate, but viewers did enjoy it as reviews for the miniseries were good. While there are missing or dramatized elements, Des provides viewers about a dangerous criminal from the past who people may not be fully aware of.