Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan cast as John and Anne Darwin in ITV drama The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe

The series explores the shocking story of a former teacher and prison officer who faked his own death in the early 2000s.

The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe

Monica Dolan and Eddie Marsan have been announced as the stars of upcoming ITV drama The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe.

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The four-part series adapts the real-life story of John Darwin, a former teacher and prison officer who faked his death in 2002 to fraudulently collect his life insurance payout and avoid bankruptcy.

Marsan takes on the role of John while Dolan plays his wife Anne, who became complicit in the deception when she started to convince the world that he’d gone missing whilst canoeing off the coast of Seaton Carew in Cleveland.

The programme will explore how the deception affected Anne and her relationship with her two sons – both of whom believed their father was dead – as well as how the secret was exposed by the discovery of a photo of Anne and John posing in a Panama real estate office.

It is written by Unforgotten creator Chris Lang and based on the unpublished manuscript by David Leigh, who was the first journalist to track down Anne as she was on the verge of setting up a new life in Panama.

“I am beyond delighted to be working with two of the finest actors of their generation,” Lang said of the casting announcement. “I have admired them both from afar for many years (not in a creepy way though) and cannot wait to see them bring Anne and John Darwin to life.”

Meanwhile, Marsan said, “I’m so thrilled to be working with Chris Lang, one of our greatest writers and to get the chance to work with Monica Dolan.

“The story of how and why John Darwin faked his own death to defraud insurance companies is fascinating, and if it weren’t fact, you’d think it unbelievable.

“I can’t pretend to understand what was going on in his head when he made those choices, but I’m going to do my absolute best to portray him, and I can’t wait to get started.”

And Dolan added, “The Thief, His Wife and he Canoe tells the story of surely the most outrageous fraud of modern times – and my favourite kind of drama is when the outrageous comes from the prosaic.

“As breath-taking as their managing to pull this deception off in the first place, is how spectacularly the couple wrecked it for themselves as soon as they had got away with it.”

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The series will begin shooting in North East England this month and also stars Mark Stanley (White House Farm) and Karl Pilkington (Sick of It, Derek), while BAFTA-winning director, Richard Laxton, (Honour, Mrs Wilson, Mum) directs all four episodes.

If you’re looking for more to watch, take a look at the rest of our Drama coverage, or check out our TV Guide.