Canoe fraudster John Darwin’s story to be dramatised for ITV

The extraordinary story of how John Darwin faked his own death to claim life insurance and avoid bankruptcy will be told in a four-part ITV drama written by Chris Lang.

The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe will relate how Anne Darwin’s husband, a prison officer, came up with the hare-brained scheme to defraud insurance companies, unbeknownst to their two sons.

“If I’d tried to sell this project as an original story, it would never have got further than the pitch. ‘It’s just too far-fetched, Chris, no-one would ever believe that any of that could actually have happened’. Except it did. All of it. And I loved writing every, single, word.” – Chris Lang

Anne Darwin became complicit in her husband’s deception when she convinced the world, their family and friends, the police and insurance companies that he had gone missing in 2002 whilst canoeing off the coast of Seaton Carew in Cleveland.

Heavily in debt, John Darwin had managed to convince his wife that the answer was to fake his own death. The ‘dead’ John secretly resided in a bedsit next door to the home he shared with Anne who kept his pseudocide a secret from the couple’s two sons.

Anne and John eventually decided to leave Seaton Carew and move to Panama City to start a new life together before their secret was exposed by the discovery of an infamous photo of them in a Panama real estate office in July 2006. The jury didn’t believe Anne’s claims that she had been coerced into the plot by her husband. She and her husband were both jailed for more than 6 years.

“This is an extraordinary story of deception within a very ordinary family.  Chris has written brilliant scripts about the heart breaking cost of this elaborate lie. I am so pleased to be working with Richard Laxton again and with Dave Nath and Story Films first drama for ITV.” – Polly Hill, ITV Head of Drama

The Darwins’ audacious fraud was previously dramatized for BBC Four in the one-off drama Canoe Man. In 2015 EastEnders brought Kathy Beale back from the dead noting that the story was loosely based on the Darwin saga, with the character and her husband having faked their deaths to escape debt.

ITV’s take is being produced by Story Films in association with All3Media International.

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