The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe writer hits back at double criticism of ITV drama

Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan star as insurance scammer John Darwin and his wife Anne in The Thief, His Wife And The Canoe.
The crime drama left viewers with a few questions (Image credit: ITV)

The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe was ITV’s big Easter Sunday drama, telling the real-life story of ‘Canoe Man’ John Darwin, who faked his death in 2002 in an insurance scam.

The first episode of the drama revealed John and his wife Anne’s financial predicament, and followed them as John set out on their scheme.

However, viewers were confused on two counts by the show.

Anne Darwin and sons

Anne even had to pretend to her own sons that their dad was dead (Image credit: ITV)

Firstly, some took to social media to criticise the accents used by the actors playing  John and Anne, Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan. The show is set in Hartlepool, but critics thought the actors missed the mark by quite a few miles.

"Eddie Marsan doing an accent straight out of Byker Grove," joked one. While another added: "Since when did we have a Geordie accent if we live in Hartlepool?"

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Luckily, show writer Chris Lang – who is also the creator of the hit crime drama Unforgotten – was quickly on hand to set the record straight. 

He revealed that the couple weren’t from Seaton Carew in Hartlepool, where the show was set. but had settled there after living many places including Newcastle and Durham.

"It's lovely that people are so passionate about their own accents," he said. "John and Anne of course weren't from Seaton Carew, they only moved there in 2002."

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Anne Darwin (Monica Dolan) and John Darwin (Eddie Marsan) stand next a canoe for The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe.

(Image credit: ITV)

Meanwhile, others thought there was a more fundamental mistake in the show – it appeared that John set off on his scam in a kayak, not the 'canoe' of the show's title

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Chris explained that the programme was accurate in its portrayal of what occurred. However, the title of the show was gleaned from the fact that, when the story became a worldwide sensation, John was quickly dubbed ‘The Canoe Man’.

Chris revealed: “All the papers at the time reported it as a canoe. So we decided to stick with that, rather than go with the title 'The Thief, His Wife and it's a Kayak actually” – adding a cheeky winking emoji at the end.

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The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe continues on Easter Monday 18 April at 9pm.

Steven Murphy

Steven is a writer, editor, and commentator with a passion for popular TV and soap operas. He spent 20 years as the editor of Inside Soap magazine, documenting every punch-up and pucker-up in the Street, the Square and the village. As a feature writer, he’s covered TV crime dramas, period dramas and even some real-life star dramas. He’s been seen as a talking head on more TV clip shows than he cares to remember, has a life-long passion for TV sci-fi – the older and creakier the better – and is a slight obsessive about any reality show featuring hotels.