This new film accompanying the ITV Drama, starring Eddie Marsden as John and Monica Dolan as Anne, tells the story of John Darwin, who faked his own death in 2002 only to return in 2007 claiming he was suffering from amnesia.
It features exclusive interviews with the police officers who investigated the disappearance as well as the insurance investigator and the prison colleague who grew suspicious about the case. The journalists who tracked Anne Darwin down to her new home in Central America also feature, along with the police sergeant on duty when the apparently confused Darwin appeared one afternoon at a West End police station.
Darwin was a prison officer living in the north east when, overstretched financially, he decided to paddle out from his seafront home near Hartlepool and disappear, leaving only a battered red canoe and broken paddle.
His wife Anne, a doctor’s receptionist, picked her husband up from a remote beach and eventually took him back home, where he lived in secret in a neighbouring property the couple owned. Whenever he heard visitors call, Darwin would go through a secret door into the neighbouring house.
Darwin managed to get a false passport and the couple travelled the world using his life insurance money and pension, eventually buying a flat and some land in Panama City. They hoped to open a hotel for adventure tourism.
In 2007 John decided to return home and handed himself in to police, claiming not to know who he was or where he’d been. It was then that police started to investigate the case of the missing canoeist, eventually charging the couple with several counts of fraud. They were both convicted in 2008.
The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe: The Real Story – Thursday at 9.00pm on ITV.