ITV’s ‘man in the canoe’ drama John Darwin hits TV screens next month

The bizarre story of how Hartlepool con man John Darwin faked his own death in an insurance scam will come to life in an ITV drama next month.

The four-part series, The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, will air in April, following the shocking story that rocked the city 20 years ago.

On March 21, 2002, 51-year-old teacher John Darwin ‘disappeared’ in very suspicious circumstances and was reported missing after failing to report for work, after he was last seen paddling out to sea in a kayak off Seaton Carew Beach.

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Darwin was presumed dead when only the wreckage of his canoe was found, but he was actually living in a studio apartment next to the family home.

The new drama, which stars Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan as John and Anne Darwin, is set to immerse the nation in the incredible story once again.

Filming for the drama, written by Chris Lang of Unforgotten and produced by Story Films, took place around Hartlepool last spring and will tell how it was all part of an elaborate scheme to defraud insurance companies.



Actor Eddie Marsan filming for the upcoming drama in Hartlepool.

Darwin moved back in secret with his wife in February 2003 and over the years the couple have obtained around £250,000 from the deception, through life insurance, a teachers’ pension scheme and the DWP.

The couple only ran into trouble when they decided to move from the North East to Panama in 2007 and found their identity had to be checked by British police if they were to get the visas they wanted.

Until then, Darwin was using a fake passport by the name of “John Jones”, an identity that had belonged to a Sunderland baby who died in 1950.

John returned to London and walked into a police station claiming to have no memory of the past five years, his wife Anne feigning surprise that he had miraculously risen from the dead.



Anne Darwin arrested by police at Manchester Airport.

Their secret was finally revealed by the discovery of an infamous photo of them posing at a Panamanian real estate agency in July 2006.

The couple’s sons Mark and Anthony, who had been lied to for five years, were initially jubilant at their father’s return but later said they had been scammed and wanted nothing more to do with their parents.

On July 23, 2008, John and Anne Darwin were both convicted of fraud. He was sentenced to six years and three months after admitting eight charges of deception, Anne, who pleaded not guilty, was sentenced to six years and six months for fraud and money laundering.

The couple separated with John believed to be remarried and living in the Philippines and Anne believed to be residing in York.

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