A former Isle of Wight County Press journalist wrote the book that inspired ITV’s major new drama, The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe.

David Leigh, 57, trained as a reporter on the County Press in the mid 1980s after leaving school.

Scroll down to see David speaking on ITV's This Morning

Later in his successful career, which saw him take on senior roles in Fleet Street, David was sent to Panama, Central America, in 2007 to track down Anne Darwin,  the wife of the notorious ‘Canoe Man’ fraudster John.

Her confessions to David made headlines around the world and form the basis of his latest book, which has the same name as the drama and is published by Hodder & Stoughton.

During his three years on the County Press, David stayed at the home of Ann Giacomelli, who was born on the Island 86 years ago and still lives in Cowes. 

They have remained good friends and former Fleet Street journalist David, who now lives in Miami, saw her last time he was back in the UK. 

Isle of Wight County Press: Dave Leigh with his landlady in Cowes Ann Giacomelli.Dave Leigh with his landlady in Cowes Ann Giacomelli.

He visited Ann at the home of her daughter, Zoe McIntyre, a fellow journalist who grew up on the Isle of Wight and used to work for ITV as director of programme publicity. 

What The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe is all about

David’s book tells the story of how John Darwin faked his own death to claim life insurance and avoid bankruptcy, and how his wife became complicit in the audacious scam.

Darwin miraculously reappeared nearly six years after he was thought to have drowned in the North Sea after going missing in his red canoe.

It later transpired that the former teacher and prison officer had faked his death so his wife could claim on their life insurance policies as they were facing almost certain bankruptcy.

Both were jailed for more than six years after being convicted of fraud and money laundering.

Anne’s confessions to David about how her husband secretly lived in a bedsit in the house next door to the family home for much of the time he was thought to be dead made headlines across the world.

The couple even fooled their own two grown-up children into believing their father was dead.

The four-part ITV drama was written by acclaimed script writer Chris Lang (Unforgotten/Innocent).

It starred Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan/Ridley Road) and Monica Dolan (Appropriate Adult/A Very English Scandal) as John and Anne Darwin.

Isle of Wight County Press: David Leigh with Monica Dolan (Ann Darwin in the drama).David Leigh with Monica Dolan (Ann Darwin in the drama).

David, who played football for Petersfield United, is also cast in the drama.

His character is portrayed by actor David Fynn.

For the past 18 years David, 57, who is married with two daughters, has lived in Florida.

He said: “It was such an incredible story that I decided to write a book.

“It’s such a truly astonishing story that you really would be hard pressed to make it up.

“I’m thrilled that ITV have brought the story to life in this new drama.”

Actor Eddie Marsan said: “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.”

Monica Dolan said: “It 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 breathtaking 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.”