THE story of back-from-the-dead canoeist John Darwin which fascinated the nation will feature in a television drama.

Canoe Man is a one-off drama about Mr Darwin and his wife, Anne, who are in jail after their extravagant insurance scam came to light in 2007.

The couple, who lived in The Cliff, Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, embarked on a new life in Panama after Mr Darwin, 59, faked his death in March 2002.

He turned up at a UK police station in December 2007, claiming he was a missing person suffering from amnesia.

But the couple’s story began to fall apart after a photo of them in Panama turned up on the internet.

The Dragonfly Productions film pieces together the events behind the crime, and the relationship at the heart of it.

Viewers can watch the hour-long programme on BBC4 at 9pm on March 31.

Hollywood actor Bernard Hill, whose movie roles have included the ship’s captain in 1997 blockbuster Titanic, will play John Darwin.

British television and film actress Saskia Reeves, who starred in Nineties movies Butterfly Kiss and ID, plays 57-year-old Anne Darwin.

Canoe Man dramatises the tale of how the debt-ridden prison warden and his wife faked his death in a canoeing accident to con insurance companies out of £250,000.

The pair are serving more than six years in jail each for their roles in the conspiracy.

The BBC’s description of the show states: “With access to police interviews and court transcripts, we witness the incredible lengths John went to in order to keep himself hidden from view, and how Anne lived a lie for so long, playing the grieving widow, even to her own sons.”

Mr Darwin made the headlines again last year for attempting to smuggle his memoirs out from behind prison walls.

Philip Correia and Jeremy Legat will play Darwins’ sons Mark, 34, and Anthony, 31.

During the trial at Teesside Crown Court in July 2008, the jury heard that the couple tricked the police, a coroner, financial institutions and even their sons into believing the former prison officer was dead.

The BBC drama was written and directed by Norman Hull, and filmed on location in Southwold, Suffolk.