Is ‘The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe’ ITV’s most shocking real-life adaptation yet?

The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe made its debut on Easter Sunday, treating ITV viewers to an improbable tale about a man who – with the help of his wife and a canoe – fakes his own death to escape growing financial turmoil. The most shocking detail? It’s all based on a true story. 

In March 2001, John Darwin, a landlord and prison officer, was reported missing by his wife, Anne Darwin, after he went canoeing in the North Sea. John was presumed dead, leaving behind two sons who believed their father had really died. In fact, it was all a scam – and a pretty calamitous one at that. 

Director Richard Laxton, The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe recounts the story from Anne Darwin’s perspective, painting her in a more sympathetic light as the long-suffering wife, rather than a knowing collaborator. 

And – let’s just say – fans are absolutely hooked on the story. Here’s everything you need to know about the ITV drama, including when you can watch the next episode:

What is The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe about?

The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe is split into four 45-minute episodes, starting with John and Anne putting the ill-conceived plan into action, before attempting to make a life for themselves in Panama. When that plan fails, the series follows John as he returns to England, claiming to have amnesia, before being found out by the press, charged with deception and sent to prison for six years. 

David Leigh, the journalist who originally broke the news of the scam and co-wrote a book about it with Anne Darwin, said that Anne is not enjoying the renewed media interest in the scandal, saying, “She often says to me, “I really can’t understand what all the fuss is about, why there is still this interest after all this time? (via Metro)” 

He added, “She lives a very quiet, anonymous existence. She obviously wishes this wasn’t happening, but she accepts she played a role in it and she understands to a degree the fascination from the British public.” 

In 2006, Anne spoke to This Morning saying, “He was convinced he would get away with this story of amnesia, I never expected him to get away with it. I was just relieved the lies would be over.

“I am dreadfully ashamed of that, I should never have done it. I didn’t have the confidence to stand up against John.”

Who will star in The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe?

The lead roles of John and Anne Darwin are taken on by Eddie Marsan (best known for his portrayal of Terry in Ray Donovan) and Monica Dolan (who won a BAFTA TV award for her portrayal of Rose West in Appropriate Adult).