A PRIME-TIME soap is planning a gripping storyline based on the real-life antics of back-from-the-dead canoe conman John Darwin.
Art is set to imitate real life as ITV favourite Coronation Street embarks on a storyline mimicking the disappearance of Hartlepool man John Darwin, who infamously faked his death to cash in on insurance.
Preview clips of Corrie scenes were aired at last week's National Television Awards.
The story is to unfold at the beginning of February as debt-ridden Joe McIntyre, who recently wed mum Gail Platt, attempts to fake his own death to escape mounting threats from a loan shark.
The clip showed anxious Joe reveal his plans to a shocked Gail, played by actress Helen Worth, telling her it will be "like that man did in the canoe".
In the storyline, frantic Joe became indebted to a violent loan shark after running into financial difficulties.
But as the loan shark piles on the pressure to cough-up his dues, Joe resorts to ever more desperate means.
Last week the dad to Tina listlessly searched ferry crossings on the internet telling Gail he wants to be "anywhere but here".
Things come to a climax in the week beginning February 8 when Joe, played by actor Reece Dinsdale, sets sail into murky seas in his boat, mimicking John Darwin's disappearce into the North Sea in a canoe on March 21, 2002.
Alison Sinclair, a spokeswoman for Coronation Street, said: "It is loosely based on that story.
"But it is very different. He tries to persuade Gail to go along with it but unlike John Darwin's wife she is not really for it. She thinks it's an outrageous idea, and there's a tragic twist for Joe.
"Our stories can come from everywhere, from pure imagination to something that has happened to one of the writers or people they know or sometimes, in this case, from things that people read about in the newspapers."
John and his wife Anne raked in 250,000 in an insurance con before making plans to start a new life in Panama.
The Darwins' hatched the plot in the face of mounting debts, and eventually came to light when he walked into a London police station in December 2007 claiming to be a missing person.
The pair, formerly of The Cliff, Seaton Carew, were sentenced at Teesside Crown Court in July 2008.
John Darwin, 58, was sentenced to six years and three months after admitting seven counts of deception and a passport offence.
John Darwin, 57, soon to be played in a BBC drama by Bernard Hill, was found guilty of six charges of deception and nine counts of money laundering, and was sentenced to six-and-a-half years.