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Wife says canoe man faked death, hid in home

  • Story Highlights
  • Reports: Wife says he faked his death to avoid debts, hid in their home for years
  • John Darwin, 57, thought to have drowned at sea off northeastern England in 2002
  • Reappeared last week; being questioned on suspicion of fraud
  • Sons of the couple say they are in an "angry and confused state of mind"
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- John Darwin's wife said her husband faked his own death to avoid mounting debts and holed up in the family home for years, hiding from his own sons, according to UK media reports.

Anne Darwin said her husband, believed by police and his sons to have been lost at sea five years ago, recently returned to the UK, faking amnesia, because he missed his now-adult children, according to The Daily Mirror.

"I didn't think he would get away with it but he had had enough of being dead," she is quoted as saying.

John Darwin, 57, is being questioned by police in northeastern England following his arrest on suspicion of fraud, a spokesman for Cleveland, England, police said.

Darwin walked into a police station in London last weekend -- five years after he was thought to have died after the remains of a canoe he paddled into the North Sea, off northeastern England, washed up on shore.

Darwin was declared dead by a coroner in 2003, 13 months after his disappearance in March 2002.

His wife, the paper reported, described how the prison officer and former teacher discussed faking his death just before he disappeared because of mounting debts.

When John Darwin vanished she said she thought he was dead -- until, she is reported to have said, he turned up on the doorstep of the family home at Seaton Carew, northeastern England, one year later.

"I didn't even recognize him at first," Anne Darwin told the newspaper, adding that her husband looked thin, dirty and smelled dreadful. "I was relieved he was alive, of course. But I was also very angry with him."

She said that her husband stayed at the home on and off before he got a one-room apartment in another part of the large house so he could vanish if friends or family arrived, also disguising himself with a hat or limp when he went outside.

But hiding away began to take its toll, Anne Darwin reportedly said, and the pair decided to leave Britain.

Her husband traveled on a false passport to look at property in Cyprus and inquire about buying a catamaran in Gibraltar, she said, before they finally settled in Panama. She went to live there six weeks ago.

She is believed to be in the United States after leaving Panama on a flight late Thursday, a Panamanian immigration representative has told CNN.

Anne Darwin, the newspaper said, stated that it was always her plan to repay two insurance policies in her husband's name: one, a life insurance policy, for £25,000 ($50,000); and another for £130,000 ($265,000), which was paid to their home loan company to pay off the mortgage in the event of her husband's death.

The newspaper said she was not paid for her story and accepts she is likely to be arrested upon her return to Britain.

Following his reappearance last weekend, John Darwin was initially reunited with his two sons, who released a joint statement saying their father claimed to have amnesia dating back to June 2000.

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But in a statement released by Cleveland police Thursday, the sons, Mark, 31, and Anthony, 29, said they were in an "angry and confused state of mind" and they wanted no further contact with their parents.

After media reports Thursday that Anne Darwin had confessed to knowing her husband was alive, the sons said: "If the papers' allegations of a confession from our mam are true, then we very much feel that we have been the victims in a large scam."

"In the short space of time following our dad's appearance in London on Saturday, we have gone through a rollercoaster of emotion," the statement said.


"From the height of elation at finding him to be alive to the depths of despair at the recent stories of fraud and these latest pictures," it added.

"How could our mam continue to let us believe our dad had died when he was very much alive? We have not spoken to either of our parents since our dad's arrest and at this present time we want no further contact with them," the statement said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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