Screenwriter Chris Lang hopes that ITV's new factual drama The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe will strike a chord with viewers, suggesting that many will empathise with the "extraordinary solution" that John and Anne Darwin took to tackle their debt.


The upcoming four-part ITV series is based on the unbelievable true story of Hartlepool couple the Darwins, who faked husband John's death during a supposed canoe accident in 2002.

Asked if he thought the drama would strike a chord with viewers, the Unforgotten writer said: "I hope so. I’m sure many of us have dreamt up extraordinary solutions to our problems and then stepped back from the precipice. The only difference between us and the Darwins, is that they jumped."

The couple, played in the series by Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan, faked John's death as part of a life insurance scam, even lying to their own children. Their eventual discovery, arrest and later prison sentencing in 2008 shocked the nation.

Anne Darwin with her sons, all dressed in black with wreaths near the sea. (ITV)
Anne Darwin and her sons ITV

"In many ways, John Darwin is a relatively easy character to understand (his is the story of a narcissist) but Anne is much more complex, so to try to understand how a mother could have committed such a heinous crime, I decided to place her at the centre of the piece, and then create a device which allowed us to hear her inner monologue, her actual thought processes," Lang explained.

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On why he didn't downplay the terrible thing Anne did, he added: "We owed it to the sons, the real victims of John and Anne’s crimes, to be truthful.

"I can’t imagine a greater betrayal than a mum telling you your dad is dead when she knows he is actually still alive. Pretending to be grieving for five years, allowing them to grieve for five years – what would possess a mother to do that? It seems unthinkable to any parent."

Read more: The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe true story: What Anne and John Darwin series is based on

The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe will start 9pm on 17th April on ITV and ITV Hub. If you’re looking for more to watch, take a look at the rest of our Drama coverage, or check out our TV Guide.


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