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News > OC news > OC David Leigh (82) inspires ITV drama

OC David Leigh (82) inspires ITV drama

David's recent book 'The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe' commissioned into successful four-part drama...
26 May 2022
OC news

We made contact with David to find out more about his recently published book 'The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe' and the subsequent ITV four-part drama of the same name. We also asked David to reflect on his time at Churcher's and to tell us about his career since leaving school...

"How the story came about - it's a long story but I'll keep it as short as possible! In 2007 I was sent to Panama by the Daily Mail to track down the wife of a canoeist who had miraculously come back from the dead after vanishing at sea nearly six years earlier. As we probably all now know, John Darwin’s story of ‘amnesia’ was a lie; he had actually faked his death, with the help of his wife, Anne, to avoid crippling debts and what he saw as the shame of bankruptcy. Most astonishingly of all, just three weeks after disappearing, he moved back to live in a bedsit of the house adjoining his family home in Seaton Carew on the Cleveland coast, and flitted between the two houses through secret, hidden passageways. 

After claiming the life insurance payouts, they sold up and moved to live in Central America. Anne eventually confessed all to me before flying home to face the music. The couple were each jailed for more than six years.  

It was such a remarkable story I decided to write a book. The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, published by Hodder & Stoughton, was optioned by a production company which then sold the idea to ITV, which commissioned the recently-seen four-part drama of the same name. It was judged a huge success, the first episode attracting nearly nine million viewers – ITV’s most watched Easter Sunday programme in more than ten years. 



On my time at Churcher's - I was a pretty lousy student if truth be known!

I was Middle School cross country champion and represented the school, and my house, Nelson, at rugby and hockey for many years, but devoted far too little time to my studies. I left after the fifth form with five 'O' levels and went on to do 'A' levels at Havant College. I always remember the then headmaster, Donald Brooks, shaking my hand on the last day of school and saying: “We wish you the very best for the future, Andrew!” My only claim to fame is once getting out of detention in an English class by being able to recite Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’ by heart! 

On leaving college, I got a job as a trainee reporter on the Isle of Wight County Press weekly newspaper. From the age of about 14, I had always wanted to follow in the footsteps of my father Don, who lives in Liphook, where I grew up, and worked as a news journalist all his working life.

After qualifying, I landed a job as a senior reporter on the Evening Argus, Brighton. After three years, I decided to try my luck in ‘Fleet Street’. I spent 12 years at the Daily Mirror, working as reporter, Night News Editor, News Editor and Foreign Editor, and was then recruited by the Daily Express to become Assistant Editor, News, where I oversaw coverage of stories including the 9/11 terrorist atrocities, the Second Gulf War, and the fall of Saddam Hussein.   

Eighteen years ago, I moved to America to set up a bureau of an international news and picture agency in Miami, where I still live today, although now I run my own company. 

I am very pleased to say my two daughters are an awful lot smarter than me. Georgia, who’s 21, has just graduated with a BS in Materials Science and Engineering from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and a Minor in Spanish Language and Hispanic Culture. She is continuing her studies at Hopkins with a Master’s Degree. Charlie, who’s 19, is studying for a BSc in Sociology with Politics of Science at University College London. She is a world-class sailor, who last December won a silver medal in the 29-er class at the Youth World Sailing Championships in Oman. 

I remain life-long friends with several Churcher’s Old Boys including Adrian Wardle (82). He and I were best men for each other at our respective weddings. It was really great seeing a bunch of my old year-mates at the recent OC Day.

My older brother Mark (80) is a current governor and former pupil, as were his daughters Emma (09) and Sophie (11)."

Thank you very much to David for answering our questions and sharing his story.

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