The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe tells the story of Anne and John Darwin, who dominated headlines in the 2000s when John attempted to fake his own death in order to claim life insurance money.

The series is set across Hartlepool (in particular, Seaton Carew), and Panama, the idyllic slice of paradise they so wished for.

Get to know the real locations used in The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe.

Anne and John Darwin's house

The Thief His Wife and the Canoe: Seaton Carew house (ITV)
The Thief His Wife and the Canoe: Seaton Carew house (ITV)

The real Darwin house was in Seaton Carew, Hartlepool, looking out onto the North Sea. They owned both numbers 3 and 4 The Cliff - they lived in 3 and rented out 4 as bedsits.

What made the real home so useful for John was that he could hide out in the bedsit they owned and sneak between 3 and 4 via old access doors in the terrace. Information obtained from Rightmove (via The Gazette) details 3 The Cliff as a seven-bedroom Victorian terraced house. It also had two bathrooms and a washroom.

The house was sold in October 2007 when Anne announced she was starting a new life in Panama for £295,000.

As for the fictional home, the interior was actually in Elstree, London. The crew built connecting sets to replicate the joined-up nature of Anne and John's house and bedsit.

The exteriors were filmed very near Anne and John's real house, in The Headland - a short 10-minute drive north from Seaton Carew.

Seaton Carew

The Thief His Wife and the Canoe: Steetley Pier (ITV)
The Thief His Wife and the Canoe: Steetley Pier (ITV)

The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe team actually headed up north to the real life Seaton Carew for filming any scenes of the town.

The main strip of the town, which overlooks the North Sea, is little more than a mile long and as of 2001, had a population of just over 6,000 - according to Eddie Marsan who played John in the series, this is really important to understanding the complex character.

He said exclusively to "It was really eye-opening for me, because it's not very big. Yeah, it's literally about a mile long. It really made me realise how deluded John Darwin was because when he went missing the police and the television cameras and all the emergency services kicked into action and it was already the biggest thing that happened to Seaton Carew in 100 years. And then he was pronounced dead.

"And two weeks later, he was walking up and down the seafront in this kind of disguise thinking no one would recognise him - that's a classic narcissist."

The bus station featuring the clock tower seen in The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe is real, and sits on the green.

As for the beach, the ITV crew headed ever so slightly more north to Hartlepool, specifically to The Headland. Walking, it would take around an hour and a half to get to The Headland from Anne and John Darwin's house. This was right outside the house they used for the exterior shots, but wasn't actually the beach where John departed from, as told to by producer, Alison Sterling.

The beach John washed up in was actually North Gare (three miles south of Seaton Carew), but in The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, John arrived on Steetley Pier, about three miles north.


The Thief His Wife and the Canoe: Panama (ITV)
The Thief His Wife and the Canoe: Panama (ITV)

Panama is actually substituted by Portugal in the ITV mini-series. Sterling revealed the team had actually planned to use the Dominican Republic to film, but COVID restrictions meant that plans were changed.

"We had originally planned to go to the Dominican Republic to shoot all the Panama material but Dominican Republic went on the COVID red list just before we were due to travel out there (our designer was already over there!) so we had to very quickly re-group, get our designer back home and in the end we went to Portugal and got very lucky with our Portuguese team, as well as the weather!"

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The flat bought by the Darwins was situated north of Lisbon, near Cascais, and the fish shack was on a beach just south of Lisbon - it was actually a European beach holiday house that was transformed into a quirky restaurant.


The prison scenes were filmed in the now-closed Holloway Prison in North London, but some sets were built (like Anne's cell, and the laundry room).


The Thief His Wife and the Canoe: Courtroom (ITV)
The Thief His Wife and the Canoe: Courtroom (ITV)

Court scenes were filmed in Camberwell Magistrates Court in South London - this was also where the interior police station scenes were shot.

Read more of our The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe coverage:

The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe begins on Sunday 17th April at 9pm on ITV and ITV Hub. You can also get a 30-day free trial of ITV Hub+ on Amazon Prime Video here. Check out our Drama hub for more news, interviews and features or find something to watch with our TV guide.

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