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John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 2

Twenty years on from his attempt at faking his own death, John Darwin’s colleagues have revealed that he was almost caught red-handed while gardening outside his home.

Darwin, a Hartlepool prison officer who came to be known as the ‘Canoe Man’, had attempted to disappear in 2002 so his wife Anne, who was in on the scam, could claim life insurance money – but he was caught out in 2007 and jailed for six years for the fraud.

After his disappearance in March 2002, a large-scale search involving the scouring of 62 square miles of coastline looked to have confirmed the worst, as only a single paddle and then the wreckage of his kayak was discovered. 

But while Darwin’s two sons mourned the loss of their father, the ‘Canoe Man’ would brazenly potter about outside his home, thinking he could not be recognised with a hat and beard.  

Former colleague Dave Smith said that he spotted Darwin outside his home in Seaton Carew, County Durham, just 14 months into his five-year scam. Smith told the Mirror: ‘He had a long shaggy beard and looked like a caveman, but I knew it was him.’  

It was one of three sightings of Darwin by colleagues after his supposed ‘death’.

Darwin remained at large for five years while Anne raked in more than £500,000 in payouts, but Mr Smith, who worked with Darwin at Holme House prison in Stockton-on-Tees, claims that staff did not really think that ‘irritating and loathsome’ Darwin had actually died at sea. 

Mr Smith said he had driven past the house with wife Denise and spotted the ‘Canoe Man’ in the front driveway before saying ‘Christ, that’s John Darwin!’ Mr Smith says his wife told not to be ‘daft’ but he was ‘100% sure it was him’ and pulled up outside the home to take another look, then immediately reported the sighting to police.  

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 3

Former colleague Dave Smith told the Mirror that he spotted Darwin (left) outside his home in Seaton Carew, County Durham, just 14 months into his five-year scam

The saga is now being dramatised by ITV in The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, which is currently airing. Pictured: Eddie Marsan as Darwin and Monica Dolan as his wife

The saga is now being dramatised by ITV in The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, which is currently airing. Pictured: Eddie Marsan as Darwin and Monica Dolan as his wife

After they had served half of the six-year jail sentences they were handed for their crimes, the couple divorced - with Darwin remarrying and moving to the Philippines and his ex-wife getting a job with the RSPCA. Above: Darwin with his second wife  Mercy Mae, 48

After they had served half of the six-year jail sentences they were handed for their crimes, the couple divorced – with Darwin remarrying and moving to the Philippines and his ex-wife getting a job with the RSPCA. Above: Darwin with his second wife  Mercy Mae, 48 

For much of Darwin's missing five years, he had been living in secret in his own home (pictured), where he shared a bed with his wife. And when family and friends visited – and his sons returned from the inquest into his alleged death – Darwin hid in a bedsit next door that was accessed through a passageway hidden behind the door of a fake cupboard

For much of Darwin’s missing five years, he had been living in secret in his own home (pictured), where he shared a bed with his wife. And when family and friends visited – and his sons returned from the inquest into his alleged death – Darwin hid in a bedsit next door that was accessed through a passageway hidden behind the door of a fake cupboard

Two decades after he tried to fake his own death in the canoeing ‘accident’, ITV have released a dramatised version of the bizarre events – The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, which premiered on Saturday night.

Former colleague Dave Smith said when he saw Darwin he was reminded of the photo of Saddam Hussein 'when he came out of the hole' he was hiding in, sporting a 'mass of hair' and a large beard (pictured: Image of John Darwin that was used on his fake passport)

Former colleague Dave Smith said when he saw Darwin he was reminded of the photo of Saddam Hussein ‘when he came out of the hole’ he was hiding in, sporting a ‘mass of hair’ and a large beard (pictured: Image of John Darwin that was used on his fake passport)

Mr Smith said when he saw Darwin he was reminded of the photo of Saddam Hussein ‘when he came out of the hole’ he had been hiding in, sporting a ‘mass of hair’ and a large beard. 

Another former Holme House prison officer, Tony Kidd, said there a number of staff at the jail not not think Darwin was really dead, and some had also seen him around his home town following his ‘disappearance’.

Mr Kidd told a new documentary about the Darwins, to be shown this Thursday, that ‘quite a few’ did not believe the drowning story, and ‘one of the girls thought they had seen him at Hartlepool marina.’ 

Co-workers also claimed Darwin had taken out all his belongings from his locker shortly before disappearing. 

For much of Darwin’s missing five years, he had been living in secret in his own home in the seaside resort of Seaton Carew, where he shared a bed with his wife.

And when family and friends visited – and his sons returned from the inquest into his alleged death – Darwin hid in a bedsit next door that was accessed through a passageway hidden behind the door of a fake cupboard.

Darwin later admitted that he would carry out DIY on the front of his family home and even walked around his area disguised as an old man – even as his two now grown-up sons Anthony and Mark continued to grieve for him thinking he was dead.

The couple even lied to their own children as they attempted to claim pension, benefits and insurance to clear nearly £700,000 before they were caught.

After spending five years laying low, John and Anne were rumbled after John pretended to have amnesia when turning himself in at a London police station – only for a photo of him and Anne in Panama to emerge.

None of the Darwin family were involved in making the drama, though the script was based on court documents, police interviews and media (file photo of John)

Mercy Mae Avila Darwin, 48, said her 71-year-old husband John (both seen in the Philippines), who faked his death for money, is 'on his way' to join troops fighting against Russian forces

None of the Darwin family were involved in making the drama, though the script was based on court documents, police interviews and media (file photo of John)

In 2008, after the scandal made national headlines, John was found guilty on deception charges and jailed for six years and three months.

Where is the ‘Canoe Man’ now? John Darwin found love in Manila after divorcing wife Anne…who got a job with the RSPCA after learning IT in prison while jailed

After spending five years laying low, John and Anne were rumbled after John pretended to have amnesia when turning himself in at a London police station – only for a photo of him and Anne in Panama to emerge.

In 2008, after the scandal made national headlines, John was found guilty on deception charges and jailed for six years and three months.

Anne was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in jail for fraud and money-laundering charges.

During their time in prison, the couple divorced with John citing ‘unreasonable  behaviour’ as a reason for the split.

John moved to Manila and remarried after the divorce to Filipino woman Mercy Mae Avila Darwin, 48.

The couple made headlines earlier this year when Ms Darwin said her husband, who is now 71, was ‘on his way’ to fight in Ukraine and has ‘good life insurance’ in case it all goes wrong.

The couple live outside Manila, with Darwin continuing to receive the UK state pension. His wife is said make a living running clothes stalls in the capital.

After her release from prison, Anne Darwin moved to a village near York.

She works for the RSPCA after getting IT and business qualifications while in prison. 

She was also able to reconcile with her two sons – after one had branded her a ‘hideous, lying b***h’ – and has been on holidays with them.

John was jailed for six years and three months after admitting eight deception charges, wife Anne was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in jail for fraud and money-laundering.

Anne was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in jail for fraud and money-laundering charges.

During their time in prison, the couple divorced with John citing ‘unreasonable  behaviour’ as a reason for the split.

John moved to Manila and remarried after the divorce to Filipino woman Mercy Mae Avila Darwin, 48.

The couple made headlines earlier this year when Ms Darwin said her husband, who is now 71, was ‘on his way’ to fight in Ukraine and has ‘good life insurance’ in case it all goes wrong.

After her release from prison, Anne Darwin moved to a village near York.

She works for the RSPCA after getting IT and business qualifications while in prison. 

She was also able to reconcile with her two sons – after one had branded her a ‘hideous, lying b***h’ – and has been on holidays with them.

John was jailed for six years and three months after admitting eight deception charges, wife Anne was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in jail for fraud and money-laundering.

When Darwin disappeared after taking his canoe out to sea, there was bafflement that he could have got into difficulty because the sea was said to be ‘like a millpond’.

Just under a year after he disappeared, Darwin turned up at his family home looking ‘an absolute mess’, his wife said.

She claimed that she had really believed he was dead before he turned up.

‘Although I was pleased he was still alive, I think deep down a part of me was always angry,’ she said.

‘To think of what he put us all through. He had basically come back expecting me to forgive him.’

She claimed that she wanted to report what he had done but he then threatened to say she had been involved from the start, so she was ‘trapped’.

Mrs Darwin then agreed to become complicit in the scam and even agreed not to tell their two sons that their father was alive.

At the inquest into his disappearance in April 2003, Mrs Darwin was able to have her husband declared dead, even though the seven years that is usually needed after someone has gone missing had not yet passed.

Once their life insurance money was paid out and their mortgage paid off, Darwin spent time either with his wife in their family home or next door in the property they also owned that was split into several bedsits.

The couple then decided to move abroad, with Darwin, who had stolen the identity of a dead baby named John Jones, opting for Panama as their destination.

Anne (pictured near Middlesbrough)

Darwin with his second wife on their wedding day

After her release from prison, Anne Darwin (pictured left this week) moved to a village near York and was able to get a job with the RSCPA thanks to qualifications she gained in prison. Right: Darwin with his second wife on their wedding day

The family home was sold and the couple spent several months together in Panama after they had bought a £50,000 two-bed apartment in a suburb of Panama City. 

They also hoped to open a canoeing centre for eco-tourists.

But Darwin then wanted to return to the UK because, Mrs Darwin said, he missed his sons. He said he would claim to have suffered amnesia.

In 2016, Mrs Darwin penned a tell-all book (pictured) about her life with her husband

In 2016, Mrs Darwin penned a tell-all book (pictured) about her life with her husband

Darwin walked into a police station in December 2007 and said he thought he was a ‘missing person’ but said he could not remember anything that had happened in the past five years.

When their two sons were called to the police station to be reunited with their father, the couple had to pretend to be astonished as they too saw each other again.

Mrs Darwin said that her husband told her: ‘Hello Anne, is that really you, are you all right?’

After the couple’s fraud was exposed and they were released from prison in 2011 after serving half of their sentences, their marriage came to an end.

Mrs Darwin attempted to justify her actions in a book that was released in 2016.

She said in an interview with The Guardian that year that deceiving her sons was ‘unforgiveable’.

She said her sons initially refused to see or talk to her, after one had testified against her at her trial.

‘I was totally shocked by how dark and full of anger they were. To see that was absolutely horrendous. It jolted me. I could easily have buckled then and there,’ she said.

She said she is now reconciled with both of her sons and has been on holidays with them and their families.

Asked if her sons were in touch with their father, she said ‘that’s a private matter for them’.

Mrs Darwin was said to live in a ‘small but comfortable flat’ in a village outside York.

Anthony (left) and Mark Darwin leave Teesside Crown Court after giving evidence against their mother at her 2008 trial

Anthony (left) and Mark Darwin leave Teesside Crown Court after giving evidence against their mother at her 2008 trial

Canoe fraudster John Darwin leaves Teesside Crown Court in 2014. A judge previously ordered he should repay £679,073

Canoe fraudster John Darwin leaves Teesside Crown Court in 2014. A judge previously ordered he should repay £679,073

For much of Darwin's missing five years, he had been living in secret in his own home, where he shared a bed with his wife.

For much of Darwin’s missing five years, he had been living in secret in his own home, where he shared a bed with his wife. 

Undated handout photo issued by Cleveland Police of CCTV from Kirkleatham Police station when John Darwin was taken into custody

Undated handout photo issued by Cleveland Police of CCTV from Kirkleatham Police station when John Darwin was taken into custody

Undated handout photo issued by Cleveland Police of CCTV from Hartlepool Police station when Anne Darwin was taken into custody

Undated handout photo issued by Cleveland Police of CCTV from Hartlepool Police station when Anne Darwin was taken into custody

Mrs Darwin is pictured above in 2007, after she had been arrested following her return to Britain

The mother-of-two is seen this week

Mrs Darwin is pictured left in 2007, after she had been arrested following her return to Britain. Right: The mother-of-two is seen this week

John and Anne Darwin are seen in a family photograph with their sons Mark and Anthony. The couple deceived their sons when they colluded to gain life insurance and pensions payouts

John and Anne Darwin are seen in a family photograph with their sons Mark and Anthony. The couple deceived their sons when they colluded to gain life insurance and pensions payouts

She works for the RSPCA after getting IT and business qualifications while in prison.

Darwin and his second wife moved last year from Manila to a property around 30 minutes away.

Mrs Avila Darwin sub-lets a clothing stall in Manila’s market and also runs another retail business, while Darwin lives off his state pension.

She told The Mirror last year: ‘I have a new business. I’ve had it for three years now. Boom. Making money.

Mrs Avila Darwin told the newspaper this week about her husband allegedly going to Ukraine to join troops fighting against Russian forces.    

When questioned about the danger, she said: ‘Yes, dangerous for the Russian when he shoot them.

‘He will have a bullet proof vest and good life insurance, good for me.’ 

‘They’re 30 or so miles to the north out!’ The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe is blasted by Hartlepool residents for cast’s ‘insulting attempt’ at local accent in ITV’s ‘harrowing’ true story about John Darwin’s notorious fake death in 2002

By Callum Wells for MailOnline 

ITV’s The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe premiered on Saturday night before being blasted by Hartlepool residents for the cast’s ‘rubbish attempt’ at the town’s north-eastern accent.

The ‘harrowing’ true drama about John Darwin’s infamous fake death in 2002 was met with rave reviews by some, however a collective of fans slated the drama for ‘insulting’ them with associations to the Geordie twang.

Despite the criticism, others lauded the ‘gripping’ masterpiece for being ‘brilliantly dark and superb’, adding that they were shocked to see the ‘coercive’ control of the main character being played out by Eddie Marsan.

They wrote on Twitter: ‘The thief, his wife and a canoe, so, why is it that ITV think people from Teesside speak with a Geordie accent. This happened in Hartlepool and we DO NOT have that accent!!!! Insulting!!!!’

‘The Thief, His Wife & The Canoe” a story researched and filmed… AND THEY DID NO RESEARCH ON THE ACCENT. I saw the trailer I wont be able to watch the programme. We do NOT have a Geordie accent in Hartlepool.’

Oh no: ITV's The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe premiered on Saturday night before being blasted by Hartlepool residents for the cast's 'rubbish attempt' at the town's north-eastern accent (Eddie Marsan in-character)

Oh no: ITV’s The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe premiered on Saturday night before being blasted by Hartlepool residents for the cast’s ‘rubbish attempt’ at the town’s north-eastern accent (Eddie Marsan in-character)

Upset: The 'harrowing' true drama about John Darwin's infamous fake death in 2007 was met with rave reviews by some, however a collective of fans slated the drama for 'insulting' them with associations to the Geordie twang (Monica Dolan in-character)

Upset: The ‘harrowing’ true drama about John Darwin’s infamous fake death in 2007 was met with rave reviews by some, however a collective of fans slated the drama for ‘insulting’ them with associations to the Geordie twang (Monica Dolan in-character)

‘Lmao at all the hartlepudlians raging that the canoe man thing was filmed on the headland, not Seaton. And also raging at the rubbish attempts at our accent. I mean, come on guys, you should know by now, normal people can’t talk like us.’

‘The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe. I remember this happening like it was yesterday, yet I don’t remember Hartlepool folk having Geordie accents [laughing emoji].’ 

”Watching The Thief, His Wife & The Canoe and I’m yet to hear a single Hartlepool accent……’

‘The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe. I’m enjoying it. Playing spot the location is always popular here (even though the TV house is not in Seaton Carew!) The accent is 30 or so miles to the north out! However, Marsan and Dolan are fascinating to watch.’ 

Meanwhile, fans of the programme contradicted these claims, claiming it was ‘literally perfect’, which they are ‘loving so far’.

Taking to the social media platform, they penned: ‘This canoe guy really seems a horrible, vindictive piece of s**t and I really don’t think he deserves two programmes to be made about him #canoeman #thethiefhiswifeandthecanoe.’

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 5

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 7

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 9

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 11

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 13

Offended: They wrote on Twitter: 'The thief, his wife and a canoe, so, why is it that ITV think people from Teesside speak with a Geordie accent. This happened in Hartlepool and we DO NOT have that accent!!!! Insulting!!!!'

Offended: They wrote on Twitter: ‘The thief, his wife and a canoe, so, why is it that ITV think people from Teesside speak with a Geordie accent. This happened in Hartlepool and we DO NOT have that accent!!!! Insulting!!!!’

‘Watched the ITV programme about the canoe guy and I remember it being reported at the time, but the coercive tactics used by the guy is laid bare and some watching the programme will think it was a drama written for tv and not actually real. #CanoeMan.’

‘Why is no one talking about the horrific coercive control? Man needed to be in a canoe accident #thethiefhiswifeandthecanoe.’  

‘I’m actually gripped by the thief his wife and the canoe. Didn’t think I would enjoy it but so far so good, casting is awesome too.’

‘The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe Is so funny what a horrible man he is!’

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 15

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 17

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 19

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 21

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 23

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 25

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 27

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 29

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 31

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 33

John Darwin was spotted GARDENING at his own home by work colleagues shortly after faking death 35

Fans: Despite the criticism, others lauded the 'gripping' masterpiece for being 'brilliantly dark and superb', adding that they were shocked to see the 'coercive' control of the main character being played out by Eddie

Fans: Despite the criticism, others lauded the ‘gripping’ masterpiece for being ‘brilliantly dark and superb’, adding that they were shocked to see the ‘coercive’ control of the main character being played out by Eddie

‘Though The Thief His Wife And The Canoe would be a laff but finding it a bit overwhelming and harrowing TBQH.’

‘watching the thief, his wife and his canoe and the casting of eddie marsan is literally perfect.’

Of course I’m watching The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe. I was obsessed with that case for years [crying emoji].’ 

‘The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe is brilliantly dark and superb. Loving it so far.’

In the trailer for ITV’s The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe, Anne Darwin (Monica Dolan) proclaims: ‘What have I done?’ as her involvement in her husband’s scheme unravels.

The series is based on the true story of the John Darwin disappearance case, the man who faked his own death to claim life insurance and avoid bankruptcy – before turning up alive five years later.

The latest promo clip of the series shows John (Eddie Marsan) and Anne concoting their scheme and keeping the shocking secret of John’s faked death from their family.    

Doubts: In the trailer for ITV's The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe, Anne Darwin (Monica Dolan) proclaims: 'What have I done?' as her involvement in her husband's scheme unravels

Doubts: In the trailer for ITV’s The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe, Anne Darwin (Monica Dolan) proclaims: ‘What have I done?’ as her involvement in her husband’s scheme unravels

In the trailer, John is seen telling Anne: ‘I’m going to fake my death. What could be simpler?’

In a voice over, she says: ‘I begged him to turn himself in,’ and then asks him: ‘Where have you decided to live when it’s all over?’

He replies: ‘Next door. Bloody genius!’

One of Anne’s sons, who believed their father was really dead, is then seen saying: ‘We should never give up hope, should we mam?’ 

Shocking: The series is based on the true story of the John Darwin disappearance case, the man who faked his own death to claim life insurance and avoid bankruptcy - before turning up alive five years later

Shocking: The series is based on the true story of the John Darwin disappearance case, the man who faked his own death to claim life insurance and avoid bankruptcy – before turning up alive five years later

Drama: The latest promo clip of the series shows John (Eddie Marsan) and Anne concoting their scheme and keeping the shocking secret of John's faked death from their family

Drama: The latest promo clip of the series shows John (Eddie Marsan) and Anne concoting their scheme and keeping the shocking secret of John’s faked death from their family

Fall out: Once their secret is out, John and Anne's sons are seen speaking to the press, saying: 'How could our mam continue to let us believe that our dad had died when he was very much alive?'

Fall out: Once their secret is out, John and Anne’s sons are seen speaking to the press, saying: ‘How could our mam continue to let us believe that our dad had died when he was very much alive?’

Anne is shown feeling guilty for her involvement in the crime as she asks John: ‘You want me to exploit people’s genuine sympathy for your benefit>’

He says: ‘Well, obviously don’t put it like that, but yes.’ 

Once their secret is out, John and Anne’s sons are seen speaking to the press, saying: ‘How could our mam continue to let us believe that our dad had died when he was very much alive?’

The trailer concludes with a sombre voiceover from Anne asking: ‘What have I done?’     

The show’s writer, Chris Lang, described the plot as ‘undeniably tragic, but also, on occasion, bleakly funny’ when explaining why he decided to create the series.

Coming soon: The four-part drama The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe is set to air on Easter Sunday and stars Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan

Coming soon: The four-part drama The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe is set to air on Easter Sunday and stars Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan

He further explained: ‘It was just a story that kept on giving and so saying ‘yes’ to it was a no-brainer.’  

Happy-Go-Lucky’s Eddie Marsan portrays John in the drama, while Monica Dolan takes on the role of his wife Anne, who became complicit in her husband’s deception as she started to convince the world that he had gone missing.

Despite describing him as a ‘narcissist’, Eddie did admit that he can ‘see myself in him’ as he opened up about his own self confidence.

He explained: ‘I can identify with John’s hubris. As an actor, I go from thinking I’m going to win an Oscar one week to thinking I’m going to be driving a cab the next. My self-esteem goes up and down all the time. 

True story: Eddie Marsan portrays John Darwin, while Monica Dolan takes on the role of his wife Anne, who became complicit in her husband's deception (The real John and Anne Darwin in 2006, in the shot that proved he was still alive)

True story: Eddie Marsan portrays John Darwin, while Monica Dolan takes on the role of his wife Anne, who became complicit in her husband’s deception (The real John and Anne Darwin in 2006, in the shot that proved he was still alive)

Leading male: Eddie admitted that he can 'see myself in him' as he opened up about his own self confidence

Leading male: Eddie admitted that he can ‘see myself in him’ as he opened up about his own self confidence

‘So I can completely understand that in John, I understand that dreamer inside him, but not that part of him that can’t deal with reality.’

Eddie also shared his joy to work alongside Monica, describing himself as a ‘big fan’ of hers as he dubbed her ‘one of the best actresses in the country’.

Monica’s character, Anne, narrates the story from her point of view during the series, but revealed she only had the script to work from – as the real life Anne ‘did not want to be involved’.

Role: 'I can completely understand that in John, I understand that dreamer inside him, but not that part of him that can't deal with reality,' Eddie explained

Role: ‘I can completely understand that in John, I understand that dreamer inside him, but not that part of him that can’t deal with reality,’ Eddie explained

Character: Monica's character, Anne, narrates the story from her point of view during the series, but revealed she only had the script to work from - as the real life Anne 'did not want to be involved'

Character: Monica’s character, Anne, narrates the story from her point of view during the series, but revealed she only had the script to work from – as the real life Anne ‘did not want to be involved’ 

She outlined: ‘From the beginning, Anne didn’t want to contribute to this production. She’s done her time and I respect that. I’m okay to leave well enough alone. 

‘Also, I’ve learnt that the least useful thing an actor can bring into the room is judgement. That’s almost the opposite of what we should be doing. I also want to put it in capital letters that this is a character in a script. I’ve never met her.’

The Darwins’ jaw-dropping deception tricked insurers, police and even their two sons into believing the ex-prison officer had died in a North Sea accident.

The couple started a new life in Panama but the tale unravelled when John came back from the dead in 2007 – claiming to have suffered amnesia. 

Scene: In snaps from the show the couple are seen shaking hands with Mario Vilar, head of the firm Move To Panama (Jorge Albuquerque) and his wife Karina (Mariana Norton)

Scene: In snaps from the show the couple are seen shaking hands with Mario Vilar, head of the firm Move To Panama (Jorge Albuquerque) and his wife Karina (Mariana Norton)

They were jailed for the fraud, with the extent of the parents’ deception shocking the world. 

The show explores the extent of Anne’s culpability and how much she was forced to go along with her husband’s plan. 

Their sons, Anthony and Mark, are shown supporting their supposedly widowed mother for years, throwing wreaths into the North Sea in front of Anne’s home where their father was hiding next door. 

Art imitating life: ITV's new drama The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe has recreated the famous photo of John and his wife Anne that proved he was still alive after he faked his own death as part of an insurance scam

Art imitating life: ITV’s new drama The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe has recreated the famous photo of John and his wife Anne that proved he was still alive after he faked his own death as part of an insurance scam

Drama: The creators of the ITV drama have called on their audience to forgive John Darwin's wife Anne

Drama: The creators of the ITV drama have called on their audience to forgive John Darwin’s wife Anne

When their sons visit her in Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, John listens to their conversations through the dividing walls.

Writer Chris Lang wanted the audience to debate among themselves just how much to blame Anne.

The final of four episodes shows the truth coming out – and later, Anne’s efforts to rebuild her family life in a way John – remarried and living in the Philippines – has not.

Her attempts at reconciliation and her obvious feelings of guilt – in counterpoint to John – give the story a fresh twist.

Lang said: ‘Good people do bad things. Let’s try and understand, let’s try and forgive because if her sons could forgive her, I would hope that we can as well.’ 

Sad: The sons, Anthony and Mark, are shown supporting their supposedly widowed mother for years, throwing wreaths into the North Sea in front of Anne's home where their father was hiding next door

Sad: The sons, Anthony and Mark, are shown supporting their supposedly widowed mother for years, throwing wreaths into the North Sea in front of Anne’s home where their father was hiding next door

Series: None of the Darwin family were involved in making the drama, though the script was based on court documents, police interviews, TV appearances and newspaper stories (Mark Sanley as Mark Darwin)

Series: None of the Darwin family were involved in making the drama, though the script was based on court documents, police interviews, TV appearances and newspaper stories (Mark Sanley as Mark Darwin)

None of the Darwin family were involved in making the drama, though the script was based on court documents, police interviews, TV appearances and newspaper stories.

But one of the Darwin sons was thought to have turned up to watch the first day of filming on location in Hartlepool, Lang said, and kept a low profile in a baseball cap and wearing a Covid mask.

Lang felt the couple’s direct input into the script would not have helped.

He said: ‘How much (do) any of us understand why we behave the way we behave? It’s complicated.’ 

Monica previously told how she has found other people were more sympathetic towards her charactrer Anne than she is in the new Canoe Man series. 

Speaking to Radio Times, Monica said she thinks Anne’s tragedy was that she tried to please everyone and was incapable of making clear decisions.

Candid: Monica Dolan has told how she has found other people were more sympathetic towards her charactrer Anne Darwin than she is in the new Canoe Man series

Candid: Monica Dolan has told how she has found other people were more sympathetic towards her charactrer Anne Darwin than she is in the new Canoe Man series

With much of the show centering around whether or not Anne should be forgiven for her inolvement in her husband’s crime, Monica said: ‘I can’t think of anything that divides people more than forgiveness. 

‘I found that other people were more sympathetic to Anne than I was. She was very good at her job and her secretarial work involved people management.’

She added: ‘Her tragedy was that she avoided decisions and tried to please everyone. But you can’t go through life not making a decision. Not making a decision is a decision.’

Monica said she thinks Anne’s defense of ‘martial coercion’ was never going to work but added that she thinks her sentence of six years and six months was a long one.

Role: The actress, 53, stars as Anne in ITV's The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe while Eddie Marsan stars as her husband John who faked his own death in an insurance scam

Role: The actress, 53, stars as Anne in ITV’s The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe while Eddie Marsan stars as her husband John who faked his own death in an insurance scam

Monica, who previously played serial killer Rosemary West, said she looks at her characters in a ‘clincal way’, especially those who are based on real people. 

The Darwins’ jaw-dropping deception tricked insurers, police and even their two sons into believing the ex-prison officer had died in a North Sea accident.

The couple started a new life in Panama but the tale unravelled when John came back from the dead in 2007 claiming to have suffered amnesia.

They were jailed for the fraud and the extent of the parents’ deception shocked the world.

Real life: Monica said she thinks Anne's tragedy was that she tried to please everyone and was incapable of making clear decisions (the real John and Anne Darwin pictured in 2006)

Real life: Monica said she thinks Anne’s tragedy was that she tried to please everyone and was incapable of making clear decisions (the real John and Anne Darwin pictured in 2006)

The show explores the extent of Anne’s culpability and how much she was forced to go along with her husband’s plan.

Anne’s inner monologue narrates the story, while Eddie Marsan plays narcissistic John with a glint in his eye.

The script, at times funny, gives Anne a sympathetic hearing without shying away from the incredible hurt she inflicted on her loved ones.

The sons, Anthony and Mark, are shown supporting their supposedly widowed mother for years, throwing wreaths into the North Sea in front of Anne’s home where their father was hiding next door.

Sad: The sons, Anthony and Mark, are shown supporting their supposedly widowed mother for years, throwing wreaths into the North Sea in front of Anne's home where their father was hiding next door

Sad: The sons, Anthony and Mark, are shown supporting their supposedly widowed mother for years, throwing wreaths into the North Sea in front of Anne’s home where their father was hiding next door

When the sons visit her in Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, John listens to their conversations through the dividing walls.

Writer Chris Lang wanted the audience to debate among themselves just how much to blame Anne.

The final of four episodes shows her efforts to rebuild her family life in a way John – remarried and living in the Philippines – has not.

Her attempts at reconciliation and her obvious feelings of guilt – in counterpoint to John – give the story a fresh twist.

Lang said: ‘Good people do bad things. Let’s try and understand, let’s try and forgive because if her sons could forgive her, I would hope that we can as well.’

Shocking: The Darwins' jaw-dropping deception tricked insurers, police and even their two sons into believing the ex-prison officer had died in a North Sea accident

Shocking: The Darwins’ jaw-dropping deception tricked insurers, police and even their two sons into believing the ex-prison officer had died in a North Sea accident

Marsan said even the crew were divided by what they made of Anne.

During her trial at Teesside Crown Court, she used the unusual defence of marital coercion, claiming her domineering husband had forced her to go through with the massive deception.

It failed, but some observers have said that in a post-Me Too world, her explanation would get a more sympathetic hearing.

Marsan said: ‘There’s a generational interpretation of the story. The older female members of the crew felt that she should have taken more responsibility and the younger ones felt that she was a victim.’

Dolan hoped the audience will ‘yo-yo’ in their feelings towards Anne, saying: ‘We can feel guilty but still do things.’

The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe continues on ITV on Monday April 18 at 9pm. 

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