Published On: Fri, Apr 30th, 2021

Eddie Marsan dons an unkempt grey beard as he takes on the role of conman John Darwin for new drama

Eddie Marsan sported an unkempt grey beard and a bulky leather jacket as he continued filming for ITV’s upcoming drama The Thief in County Durham on Friday. 

The actor, 52, stars as conman John Darwin, the fraudster who faked his own death by going missing while canoeing off the coast of Seaton Carew in 2002.  

In the outdoor shoot, Eddie could be seen walking along the street stony-faced with two bags of shopping for a scene in the upcoming four-part show.  

Rugged: Eddie Marsan sported a unkempt grey beard as he continued filming for ITV’s upcoming drama The Thief as canoe conman John Darwin on Friday

Eddie donned a pair of blue jeans and a grey half zip sweater as he got into character as the conman. 

He matched the long leather jacket with a pair of shiny black brogues and pulled on a wooly beanie hat for the filming in Hartlepool. 

Clutching his shopping on the quiet street, Eddie put on a concerned expression as he portrayed the famous criminal.  

The actor sported a grey beard – just like John did in the picture used on his fake passport. 

Evidence: John sported a big beard in the picture used on his fake passport released by Cleveland Police

Inspiration: The actor's facial hair made him look just like conman John did in the picture used on his fake passport after he faked his own death for an insurance pay out in 2002

Inspiration: The actor’s facial hair made him look just like conman John did in the picture used on his fake passport (left) after he faked his own death for an insurance pay out in 2002

Actress Monica Dolan, 52, will join Eddie in the upcoming series as his wife Anne who became an accomplice to his fraudulent activity.  

The ITV drama will focus on how Anne became complicit in her husband’s deception to convince the world he’d gone missing in an attempt to claim life insurance and avoid bankruptcy. 

However, the crime was to take its toll on Anne who lied to their sons, Mark and Anthony, for five years whilst her husband, in the early days of the fraud, secretly lived in a bedsit next door to the home he shared with Anne. 

Starring role: He donned a pair of blue jeans and a grey half zip sweater as he got into character as the conman

Starring role: He donned a pair of blue jeans and a grey half zip sweater as he got into character as the conman

Devastated by the loss of their father, neither son had an inkling their parents were capable of such treachery and being involved in a £679,000 insurance scam.

Anne and John, now 70, eventually decided to leave Seaton Carew and move to Panama City to start a new life together before their secret was exposed by the discovery of a photo of them posing in a Panama real estate office in July 2006.

John had been travelling back and forth between Panama and the UK and turned up at a London police station in 2007 claiming he’d been suffering from amnesia.

At her trial Anne pleaded not guilty, arguing that she had been coerced into the plot by her husband, but the jury didn’t believe her.

John was ordered to serve six years and three months in prison while his wife, who police described as a compulsive liar, got six years and six months. She was released from prison in 2011.

Since the astonishing case, the couple have divorced, with John remarrying, and Anne opting for a quiet life away from the headlines.

Fraudster fashion: He matched the long leather jacket with a pair of shiny black brogues and pulled on a wooly beanie hat for the filming in Hartlepool, County Durham

Fraudster fashion: He matched the long leather jacket with a pair of shiny black brogues and pulled on a wooly beanie hat for the filming in Hartlepool, County Durham

And in January 2021 it was reported that the former teacher has settled into a new life in the Philippines with new wife Mercy May, who at 47 is 23 years his junior.

The couple married in 2015 after striking up a romance online.

John receives a state pension of around £134 a week, while his wife, a mother-of-three, sub-lets a clothing stall and owns another shop.   

Serious: Clutching his shopping on the quiet street, Eddie put on a concerned expression as he portrayed the famous criminal, who was aided in the fraud by his wife Anne Darwin

Plot: ITV's drama The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe is based upon the unpublished manuscript written by a journalist who was the first journalist to track down Anne

Serious: Clutching his shopping on the quiet street, Eddie put on a concerned expression as he portrayed the famous criminal, who was aided in the fraud by his wife Anne Darwin

She told The Mirror: ‘I have a new business. I’ve had it for three years now. Boom. Making money.’

While in 2016 his ex-wife Anne wrote a book about the scandal, revealing she been disowned by their two sons.

Writing in Out of my Depth, the so-called ‘Canoe Wife,’ wrote: ‘Why did I do it? That is the question I still ask myself today. Why, when I got home, did I make that phone call to the police? 

Real life: John and Anne tried to convinced the world that John had gone missing whilst canoeing but were rumbled by a snap of them in a Panama estate agent in July 2006 (pictured)

Real life: John and Anne tried to convinced the world that John had gone missing whilst canoeing but were rumbled by a snap of them in a Panama estate agent in July 2006 (pictured)

Plot: The upcoming drama will focus on how Anne (pictured in 2007)

Plot: Anne is played by Monica Dolan (pictured)

Plot: The upcoming drama will focus on how Anne (left) played by Monica Dolan (right) became complicit in her husband’s attempt to claim life insurance and avoid bankruptcy 

‘I was never motivated by money. That wasn’t the reason. Incredible though it may sound, the only reason I had was my loyalty to John.’

She has since reconciled with her sons, and was last known to be working for the RSPCA in York after gaining qualifications in IT and business while in prison.

ITV’s drama The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe is based upon the unpublished manuscript written by journalist 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.

Stars Monica and Eddie will be joined in the cast by Mark Stanley (White House Farm) and Karl Pilkington (Sick of It, Derek), whose roles have not yet been revealed.

Family: Devastated by the loss of their father, the couple's sons Mark and Anthony had no  inkling that their parents were capable of lying (pictured at the trial in 2008)

Family: Devastated by the loss of their father, the couple’s sons Mark and Anthony had no  inkling that their parents were capable of lying (pictured at the trial in 2008)

Speaking about his new role, Eddie 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 Monica added: ‘The Thief, His Wife and The 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.’

Hidden: John used a secret passageway (pictured) in the bedsit in which he lived for five years after he faked his own death, which connected to Anne's house next door

Hidden: John used a secret passageway (pictured) in the bedsit in which he lived for five years after he faked his own death, which connected to Anne’s house next door

The real life story is written by acclaimed screenwriter Chris Lang, who said: ‘I am beyond delighted to be working with two of the finest actors of their generation.

‘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.’

The four-part drama is produced by Story Films, the company founded by three times BAFTA-winner David Nath and fellow award-winning director Peter Beard.

Shocking: Anne lied to their sons, Mark and Anthony, for five years whilst her husband, in the early days of the fraud, secretly lived in a bedsit next door to the home he shared with Anne

Shocking: Anne lied to their sons, Mark and Anthony, for five years whilst her husband, in the early days of the fraud, secretly lived in a bedsit next door to the home he shared with Anne

Susie Liggat (Giri/Haji) also executive produces, with Alison Sterling (The Windermere Children) producing.

They will be joined by the celebrated screenwriter of Unforgotten and Innocent Chris Lang who also executive produces the four part series. BAFTA winning director, Richard Laxton, (Honour, Mrs Wilson, Mum) directs each of the four episodes. 

The drama has been commissioned for ITV by Head of Drama Polly Hill and will be produced in association with All3Media International. 

Famous face: Eddie famously starred as Inspector Lestrade in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes alongside Robert Downey Jr

Famous face: Eddie famously starred as Inspector Lestrade in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes alongside Robert Downey Jr

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