Man Faked Own Death For Over Three Years
LONDON (Reuters) - A man who had been declared dead after a canoeing accident but in fact survived hid in his home for three years before his arrest this week, his wife told British newspapers Saturday.
Anne Darwin described how her husband, John, had avoided discovery by using a small passage to an apartment in an adjoining house owned by the couple.
John Darwin was arrested on suspicion of fraud after he sensationally reappeared and walked into a police station claiming amnesia.
"For three years, while virtually everyone close to us believed John was missing presumed dead, he was actually at home with me," Anne Darwin, who recently left Britain for central America, told the Daily Mirror.
"We were living as man and wife, although it was far from a conventional life," she added.
"There were a few hairy moments and I lived in fear of being found out," she told the Daily Mail in another interview.
She said Darwin had talked to her before his disappearance about faking his death as a way to solve financial problems.
Friday, magistrates granted Cleveland Police an extra 36 hours to question Darwin, 57, on suspicion of fraud. Officers plan to question his 55-year-old wife if she returns to Britain.
Newspaper reports said his life insurance and work benefits had been paid to his wife.
Anne Darwin spoke to the Daily Mail in Miami where she had traveled from Panama, apparently heading to Britain after telling reporters she had been "living a lie" and fears her children would never forgive her.
She told the Daily Mirror her husband partly lived with her in the family home but, if visitors called, had to flee through the passage hidden by a wardrobe with a false back. It led to one of several apartments the other house was divided into.
Former prison officer Darwin vanished in March 2002 from his home in Hartlepool, but according to his wife, he turned up at their house a year later.
"I didn't even recognize him at first," she told the Mirror. "He was an absolute mess, all disheveled. I was relieved he was alive, of course, but I was also very angry with him."
She added: "We had a lot of debt, in the tens of thousands. He said there was only one way out of the situation and that was to fake his death. I said it was the wrong thing to do and could not go along with it but he badgered away."
She said the couple decided to move to Panama but Darwin, who was missing their sons Anthony and Mark, invented a plan to "return from the dead."
"I didn't think he would get away with it, but he had enough of being dead. John desperately wanted contact with the boys."
In 2002, Anne Darwin reported her husband missing, saying she feared he had suffered an accident while kayaking in the North Sea near their home in Hartlepool, in Cleveland.
A few weeks later the shattered remains of his red kayak were discovered. In 2003, following a police inquiry, a coroner declared him dead.
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