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Canoe fraudster John Darwin now living totally different life after faking own death

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Canoe fraudster John Darwin is now living a totally different life after faking his own death in 2002.

Now living thousands of miles away from the crime scene, John, 71, conspired with his ex-wife Anne Darwin to apply for £250,000 from his life insurance policy after pretending he was dead.

John faked his death by paddling out to sea from Seaton Carew beach in County Durham and for five years, the couple, who had been in debt, managed to deceive people until John ‘rose from the dead’ and a photograph led to his downfall.

John, who is now divorced form Anne, lives in the Philippines with his younger wife Mercy – and still gets a UK state pension.

Former teacher and prison officer John calculated he could get himself out of debt by paddling out to sea near Hartlepool and disappearing in March 2002.



Monica Dolan as Anne Darwin and Eddie Marsan as John Darwin, in the ITV drama, The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe.

His ‘canoeing accident’ was reported by then wife Anne and sparked a huge search and even their two sons thought their dad was dead.

John has said his plan almost went fatally wrong when he was swept out to sea for real as he ‘faked it’.

The Mirror has seen his unpublished memoir where he wrote: “I started to paddle again, heading towards the pier which I had spotted a few minutes earlier.

“It then struck me that I couldn’t see the South Gare [breakwater at the mouth of the River Tees].

“I’d actually paddled out much, much further than I intended. To my total horror, I realized I could have been swept away and died. I had nearly done it without meaning to.”

Anne took the £250,000 in life insurance payouts, and John hid in a bedsit belonging to them next door to the family home, with a secret door to Anne’s bedroom.

John decided to have a bushy beard which allowed him to go into town unnoticed.

They then bought a £200,000 tropical estate in Panama in May 2007 but when visa laws there changed, John came home and went to the police, saying he had been suffering from amnesia.

However a photo emerged in the Mirror of John and Anne in an estate agent’s office – with the headline ‘Canoe’s this in Panama?’.

John was sentenced to six years and three months in prison for admitting deception by faking his own death, and Anne received six-and-a-half years for fraud. In 2011 he was released and wanted to get back with Anne, but she didn’t ‘t want to and he divorced her for ‘unreasonable behavior.’

John also broke his parole terms two years later when he met a young Ukrainian woman looking for a rich man from a foreign brides website.

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He said he was getting 240 messages from women every day, but they never got past a first date.

In 2015, John married Filipino bride Mercidita, who is 23 years younger than him has a market clothes stall as well as other businesses.



David Leigh recreates the infamous photo that ended the Darwins’ lies with actors Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan, who play John and Anne Darwin in ITV drama TV’s The Thief, His Wife and Canoe

He now helps her sell her £4.35 a time undies and T-shirts in the market stall – a bit different form the luxury life he imagined.

He is also allergic to the dust and dirt and apparently spends most of the time locked away in his room, as revealed by his landlady in 2016.

The couple have now reportedly moved to Manila 30 minutes away but let the property next door.

John gets about £134 a week form his UK State pension and Mercy May says: “I have a new business. I’ve had it for three years now. Boom. Making money.”

His wife also said recently he was “on his way” to fight against the Russians in Ukraine.

She said: “Yes, dangerous for the Russian when he shoots them (sic).

“He will have a bullet proof vest and good life insurance, good for me.”

A dishevelled John was recently seen at a store called WILCON but Mercy says he will release another tell-all book.

She explained: “The book’s about his life, but it’s not yet finished. You have to wait.”

A friend added: “John and Mercy are really happy together. He feels like he’s been given a second chance at life and he’s grabbing it with both hands.”

The show The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, which is now on ITV with Eddie Marsan in the lead role, was made without John’s permission, after the writer says he wouldn’t cooperate with them.

It is based on a book by former Daily Mirror journalist David Leigh, who found Anne in Panama after John returned to the UK in 2007.

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