John Stonehouse’s story is almost too wild to believe – this unmissable C4 doc tells it beautifully

Channel 4’s The Spy Who Died Twice will explore the perplexing real-life case of British politician John Stonehouse. Here’s why it’s a fascinating documentary you need to watch. 

Documentaries of late are all about the shock factor. Whether it’s delving into the harsh realities of everyday life or scandals that leave us perplexed, there’s just something about uncovering real-life cases in an hour-long show format that we just love.

Tonight’s documentary pick mixes everything we love – political scandal, deceit, lies and an unexpected spy story – into one show that’s bound to leave us both confused and in a research wormhole after watching.

The Spy Who Died Twice will explore the story of John Stonehouse, a well-known 1970s British politician who rose to prominence as part of then-Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s government.  

John Stonehouse is the once high-profile MP that is at the centre of C4’s new documentary.

If you’re expecting tired analysis of 20th century politics then this documentary will pleasantly surprise you. The case of the Walsall North MP became well-known on account of how preposterous it all became. You see, Stonehouse not only faked his own death, he also stole the identity of a recently deceased constituent, flew to Australia to pursue a life there, was arrested and all the while, was believed to be a spy for the Czech Secret Service in the 60s.

Wild stuff, right? Well, the story is clearly the stuff of TV dreams right now as we’re not only getting this informative documentary, but new ITV drama Stonehouse will also be coming to our screens soon. 

It’s set to dig deep into the political scandal, as well as examining his extra-marital affair with his secretary Sheila Buckley and hone in on the fact that he left his wife Barbara (who will be played by Keeley Hawes) and his three young children, who were all led to believe he had drowned at sea. Or, in a more dramatic turn of events, thought that Stonehouse had been eaten by sharks. 

The Spy Who Died Twice will explore the perplexing story of John Stonehouse and airs tonight on Channel 4.

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Although the ITV drama is firmly on our watchlist, this new Channel 4 documentary will look into the case more from an analytical standpoint. Just why was Stonehouse never charged? Was he actually a spy? What power dynamics were at play here?

The Spy Who Died Twice will look at how prime ministers from Wilson to Margaret Thatcher chose not to investigate the spy allegations around Stonehouse any further.

The film features never-before-seen testimony from those who were there, as well as some insightful archival footage. It also uses actors, who will voice written testimony from both the Czech Security Services files on Stonehouse and the National Archives’ government records.

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Shaminder Nahal, head of specialist factual and commissioning editor at Channel 4 says: “The story of the former minister John Stonehouse faking his own death is nothing less than extraordinary.

“This rich and atmospheric film reveals new evidence about his spying for the Czechs at the height of the Cold War – and its heady mix of politics, celebrity, mystery and media frenzy throws up interesting parallels with events today.”

One thing’s for certain, if there’s a documentary based on an intriguing real-life story mixed with politics and scandal – we’ll most definitely be tuning in.

The Spy Who Died Twice airs tonight (Monday 9 May) at 9pm on Channel 4 and will be available to watch on All4 afterwards. 

Images: Getty

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