Three-part drama Stonehouse starts tonight on ITV1 (Picture: ITV)
New ITV drama Stonehouse kicks off tonight with Emmy award-winning actor Matthew Macfadyen taking on the role of disgraced Labour minister John Stonehouse.
The three-part drama explores how The MP for Walsall North vanished from the beach of a large luxury hotel in Florida in November 1974, leaving a neatly folded pile of clothes as he swam into the sea, intent on faking his own death.
At first it had been presumed that Stonehouse had drowned at sea or been eaten by sharks, however, it soon transpired that he had uprooted to Australia to start a new life with his mistress.
Stonehouse’s plans quickly turned sour when he was arrested by Australian police and brought back to the UK by Scotland Yard detectives.
Here’s everything you need to know about Stonehouse and whether it is based on a true story.
Is Stonehouse based on a true story?
Emmy award-winning actor Matthew Macfadyen takes on the role of John Stonehouse (Picture: ITV)
Stonehouse is a dramatized series of the life of John Stonehouse by acclaimed writer John Preston.
In real life, Stonehouse was married to Barbara Smith for 30 years from 1948, with whom he shared three children, daughters Jane and Julia, and a son, Mathew.
Astonishingly, he faked his death on November 20, 1974, by leaving his clothes on Miami Beach to make it appear that he had gone swimming and drowned.
He was presumed dead, and obituaries were published despite no corpse being discovered.
In reality, Stonehouse was on his way to Australia, hoping to set up a new life with his mistress and secretary, Sheila Buckley.
He used false identities in a mission to start afresh Down Under, and, using the name Clive Mildoon, he reposited $21,500 at the Bank of New Zealand.
Labour MP Stonehouse tried to fake his own death in November, 1974 (Picture: Getty)
The teller who handled the money later spotted Stonehouse posing as Mildoon at the Bank of New South Wales.
Inquiries led the teller to find out that the money was in the name of Joe Markham and he informed the local police.
Stonehouse spent some time in Copenhagen with Sheila, but upon returning to Australia he was unknowingly under surveillance.
Initially, the police initially suspected him of being Lord Lucan, who had disappeared a fortnight before Stonehouse, following the murder of his children’s nanny, Sandra Rivett.
Investigators discovered Stonehouse would read British newspapers that featured articles attacking the ‘recently deceased’ John Stonehouse.
It wasn’t long before Scotland Yard was approached, with detectives requesting pictures of both Lord Lucan and Stonehouse.
Stonehouse was sentenced to seven years in prison for fraud (Picture: Getty)
He was then arrested in Melbourne on 24 December 1974 and six months later he was deported to the UK.
Stonehouse was remanded in Brixton Prison until August 1975 when he was released on bail.
During this time, he continued to serve as an MP for the Labour Party.
After representing himself during his trial, Stonehouse was eventually convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for fraud on August 6, 1976.
Stonehouse showrunner Preston has always been fascinated by Stonehouse. ‘The story of how he faked his own death and tried to start a new life in Australia under an assumed name is one of the most bizarre true-life tales I’ve ever come across,’ he said.
‘I’m absolutely thrilled that it’s being brought to the screen with such an outstanding cast.’
Stonehouse starts tonight at 9pm on ITV1.