Former detective says canoe conman John Darwin almost got away with it, ahead of ITV drama

  • Video report by Rachel Bullock

A former top detective, who unravelled the case of canoe conman John Darwin, says he and his wife almost got away it.

Speaking to ITV Tyne Tees ahead of the ITV drama, 'The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe', Tony Hutchinson recalls working on the case in which the Hartlepool canoeist faked his own death to claim life insurance and avoid bankruptcy.

His book inspired the four part drama, which will begin airing on Sunday (17 April).

Ex-Detective Superintendent Tony Hutchinson said: "He was obviously playing the amnesia card, which right from the off was obviously just a load of nonsense."

John Darwin had re-appeared five years after his apparent death, over which his wife, Anne, had claimed on his life insurance to repay debts.

Police were suspicious, but at first didn't believe any crime had been committed until an anonymous tip-off about a photograph taken at an estate agents in Panama.

The infamous photo in Panama. Credit: Police handout

Tony said: "It just blew their story straight out of the water."

No British national has ever been successfully extradited from Panama. It means the couple came tantalisingly close to getting away with it.

Tony continued: "If he'd have stayed put, short of us sending a fast moving boat to kidnap him, he could have just stayed in Panama.

"I've always been convinced that he just thought he'd walk up to the police station and everyone would say 'Oh fantastic, get yourself away John'.

"It didn't quite work like that, did it?".

The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe airs at 9pm on Sunday on ITV.