ITV’s Des: Where are the real life people from the Dennis Nilsen case now?
DCI Peter Jay left the police two years after the trial
ITV’s latest series Des is a chilling dramatisation of the real life story of Dennis Nilsen who murdered at least 12 people between 1978 and 1983.
David Tennant plays the serial killer in a seriously disturbing portrayal and the three-part series follows a number of detectives including DCI Peter Jay, DI Steve McCusker and DC Brian Lodge attempting to identify his victims. The mini series also follows the writer Brian Masters, who wrote Nilsen’s biography and as part of the show we watch Brian get to know Dennis more.
The show concludes tonight and whilst it is public knowledge that Dennis was sentenced to life in prison, what actually happened to him and the police in the series after the trial and where are they now?
In the ITV series Dennis is played by David Tennant and gives a genuinely terrifying portrayal of the serial killer. In real life Dennis was sentenced to life imprisonment for six murders and one attempted murder.
Dennis was to serve a minimum of 25 years and in 1994 the Home Secretary replaced this with a whole-life tariff ensuring he would never leave prison. Throughout the years he was sent to a number of prisons and on one occasion was attacked by another inmate and required 89 stitches.
During his time in prison Dennis is said to have translated books into braille as well as reading, writing, painting and playing the keyboard. Dennis died in 2018 after a pulmonary embolism.
Another person key to the Des cast was Jason Watkins who has previously been in Nativity! and The Crown. Jason played Brian Masters who was the biographer of Dennis Nilsen.
Just like in the series Brian visited Dennis often before his trial and did so for eight months before he published his book “Killing for Company” about Dennis. Brian continued to visit Dennis after the publication of the book for the next 10 years until Dennis stopped the visits because Brian compared him to American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer on the radio.
Brian went onto write the biography of Jeffery as well as Rosemary West. Brian is now 81 years old and has written his autobiography which was published in 2002 and he also advised on the ITV drama.
DCI Peter Jay
DCI Peter Jay is the lead detective in the Des case and is played by Daniel Mays. The real life Peter Jay left the police force two years after the investigation and started a family with his wife Linda.
Sadly Peter died two years ago from cancer at age 79, two months before the production team got in contact about the show. His son, Simon, has revealed the case always bothered his dad as he felt the victims never got true justice.
He said: “He always thought they still hadn’t sought justice for the victims and their families. It was always a bit of a tainted case for him even though everyone looks at it as this big, positive case that they found this killer. For Dad it was always that we never got to finish it properly.”
DI Steve McCusker
DI Steve McCusker is played by Barry Ward in the ITV dramatisation and often appears to be Peter’s right hand man. The real Steve is Northern Irish and is still alive today.
He has commented on the show and said the portrayal of Peter is not all that accurate. Steve said Peter shouting was not like him and that he was in fact a quiet thoughtful man.
He said: “Peter Jay is ranting and raving but Peter wasn’t like that. Peter was a quiet man. He was a thoughtful kind of a guy. He was an ex-Fraud Squad officer. And they were all sort of quiet types. More thinkers than doers, if you like.”
DC Brian Lodge
Brian Lodge is another key part of the Dennis case and was the exhibits officer responsible for all the evidence on the case.
He said he still suffers nightmares from all the things he saw during that time and like his fellow detectives Brian shares the frustration of not being able to give all the families’ justice.
Brian was actually an extra on the show and was invited down to the Des set along with Steve to meet the cast, including Ben Bailey Smith who plays him in the show. Nowadays Brain has a family and works in security consulting.
Featured image credit: ITV