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Mark Stanley films scenes being mobbed by press as he plays conman John Darwin’s son in ITV drama

Mark Stanley was seen portraying canoe conman John Darwin’s son Mark for the first time on Wednesday as he emerged from the car amid a tense scenes in the new ITV drama.

The four-part TV show is set to depict John Darwin’s deception which saw him and wife Anne  faking his death in a canoeing incident in a bid to cash in on his their insurance – with their sons Mark and Anthony none-the-wiser.

And actor Mark, 33, was seen looking stern as his character was mobbed by the press in the TV adaption, The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe – which was filmed in Hartlepool, County Durham. 

In character: Mark Stanley was seen portraying canoe conman John Darwin’s son Mark for the first time on Wednesday as he emerged from the car amid a tense scenes in the new ITV drama

New images show the Anne Boleyn star donning a brown jacket and a red sweater as he and his onscreen brother Dominic Applewhite came home to be confronted by a sea of newspaper reporters and photographers.

Mark was seen holding a newspaper bearing the words ‘in Panama’, which alluded to the revelation that John was actually still alive and had fled to Panama City with his wife – which explains the media frenzy. 

A horde of extras were seen gathering around brandishing dictaphones and cameras as they shot the dramatic scenes as the brothers emerged home amid the scandal.

Actor Dominic Applewhite was also seen on the set, donning a navy jumper and jeans while portraying the Darwin couple’s youngest son. 

Frenzy: Actor Mark, 33, was seen looking stern as his character was mobbed by the press in the TV adaption, The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe - which was filmed in Hartlepool, County Durham

Frenzy: Actor Mark, 33, was seen looking stern as his character was mobbed by the press in the TV adaption, The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe – which was filmed in Hartlepool, County Durham

The Sex Education star was also seen clutching a cup of coffee and appeared to have kicked off his shoes a he chilled out in between the intense scenes.  

The ITV drama will focus on how John’s wife Anne (played by Monica Dolan) became complicit in her husband’s (Eddie Marsan) 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 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: The four-part TV show is set to depict real life Anne's involvement in her husband's deception by faking his death in a canoeing incident in a bid to cash in on their life insurance (pictured)

Wow: The four-part TV show is set to depict John Darwin’s deception which saw him and wife Anne faking his death in a canoeing incident in a bid to cash in on his their insurance – with their sons Mark and Anthony none-the-wiser

Dramatic: Actor Mark looked visibility distressed as he was hounded by a group of reporters

Dramatic: Actor Mark looked visibility distressed as he was hounded by a group of reporters

Distressed: Mark battled his way through the sea of press as he emerged back to the family home

Move: The star pushes past an actor as he filmed the scenes

Distressed: Mark battled his way through the sea of press as he emerged back to the family home

Crazy scenes: Things looked chaotic on set as the intense scenes were filmed

Crazy scenes: Things looked chaotic on set as the intense scenes were filmed

Big rush: A group of people were seen rushing around the set as Mark and Anthony emerged

Big rush: A group of people were seen rushing around the set as Mark and Anthony emerged

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.

Filming: New images show the Anne Boleyn star donning a brown jacket and a red sweater as he and his onscreen brother Dominic Applewhite came home to be confronted by a sea of newspaper reporters and photographers

Filming: New images show the Anne Boleyn star donning a brown jacket and a red sweater as he and his onscreen brother Dominic Applewhite came home to be confronted by a sea of newspaper reporters and photographers

Headlines: Mark was seen holding a newspaper bearing the words 'in Panama', which alluded to the revelation that John was actually still alive and had fled to Panama City with his wife - which explains the media frenzy

Headlines: Mark was seen holding a newspaper bearing the words ‘in Panama’, which alluded to the revelation that John was actually still alive and had fled to Panama City with his wife – which explains the media frenzy

Shield: Mark was seen holding the newspaper baring the headline about his onscreen father

Shield: Mark was seen holding the newspaper baring the headline about his onscreen father

Portrayal: Mark plays the role of the Darwin's eldest son Mark

Real life agony: Mark had no clue of his parents' deceit (pictured in 2007)

Portrayal: Mark plays the role of the Darwin’s eldest son Mark, who was unaware of the fraud

Drama: A horde of extras were seen gathering around brandishing dictaphones and cameras as they shot the dramatic scenes as the brothers emerged home amid the scandal

Drama: A horde of extras were seen gathering around brandishing dictaphones and cameras as they shot the dramatic scenes as the brothers emerged home amid the scandal

Since the astonishing case, the couple have divorced, with John remarrying. 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.  

In 2016 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,’ she penned: ‘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?

‘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.’

Role: Actor Dominic Applewhite was also seen on the set, donning a navy jumper and jeans while portraying the Darwin couple's youngest son

Role: Actor Dominic Applewhite was also seen on the set, donning a navy jumper and jeans while portraying the Darwin couple’s youngest son

Down time: The Sex Education star was also seen clutching a cup of coffee and appeared to have kicked off his shoes a he chilled out in between the intense scenes

Down time: The Sex Education star was also seen clutching a cup of coffee and appeared to have kicked off his shoes a he chilled out in between the intense scenes

Chilled: Mark was all smiles between scenes

Chilled: Mark was all smiles between scenes

Report: A media van was seen parked outside the house for the scenes

Report: A media van was seen parked outside the house for the scenes

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 Karl Pilkington (Sick of It, Derek), whose role has not yet been revealed.

Speaking about the TV project, Eddie said recently: ‘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.

Frenzy: The brothers' house was surrounded by press amid the scandal

Frenzy: The brothers’ house was surrounded by press amid the scandal

Under pressure: Mark and Dominic filmed the intense moment the brothers returned home as their parents fraud was unearthed

Intense: Mark was seen making his way past the group of actors

Under pressure: Mark and Dominic filmed the intense moment the brothers returned home as their parents fraud was unearthed

‘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.

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)

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

‘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.’

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.’

Spitting image: Eddie Marsan is playing conman John in the drama

Clean shaven: The real John pictured in 2008

Spitting image: Eddie Marsan (left) is playing conman John (right in 2008) in the drama depicting his attempt to fake his death for a life insurance payment

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.

Susie Liggat (Giri/Haji) and Alison Sterling (The Windermere Children) serve as producers.

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.


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