‘Des’ recap: What happened in Episode 1?

ITV’s ’80s true crime drama Des began in the UK tonight.

The three-part mini-series follows the arrest and trial of real-life serial killer Dennis Nilsen.

Based on Brian Masters’ book Killing for Company, Des dramatises one of the most infamous cases in UK criminal history.

The story is told through the prism of three men – Dennis Nilsen, played by David Tennant (Broadchurch), Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay, played by Daniel Mays (Line of Duty), and biographer Brian Masters, played by Jason Watkins (The Crown).

Watch the trailer:


Here’s a plot recap for the first episode of Des, which aired on ITV at 9pm on Monday 14th September 2020:

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.

Brian Masters’ book Killing for Company is available on Amazon.