‘Canoe Man’ claimed £250,000 on life insurance after faking his own death


A man and his wife claimed £250,000 on his life insurance after concocting a scheme to fake his death.

Teacher John Darwin was last seen paddling out to see in his kayak in March 2002. Later that day he was reported as missing after failing to turn up to work.

Following aa large scale police search which found nothing, wreckage of John’s kayak was found the next day with the then 51-year-old presumed dead, when really he was living in a bedsit next door to the family home in Hartlepool. Less than a year later, he then secretly moved back in with his wife Anne.

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After a death certificate was issued for John, his wife was able to claim his life insurance. It is alleged that £250,000 was paid out from Unat Direct Insurance Management Limited (part of the AIG insurance group).

After John spent time abroad, the couple eventually moved from the North East to Panama in 2007, Chronicle Live reports. But after finding their identities would have to be verified by UK police in order for them to receive a Panamanian visa, John returned to British soil and walked into a London police station claiming to have no memory of the past five years, with Anne faking surprise and disbelief at him still being alive.


John and Anne Darwin in Panama
John and Anne Darwin in Panama

Their secret was eventually exposed by the discovery of a photo of them posing in a Panama real estate office in July 2006. Two years later they were convicted of fraud, having also deceived their own sons who vowed to have nothing more to do with them.

John was sentenced to six years and three months after admitting eight deception charges. Anne who pleaded not guilty, receiving a slightly longer sentence of six years and six months on convictions of fraud and money-laundering.

The now separated couple were released from prison over a decade ago, with a re-married John reported to be living in the Philippines in 2019. Anne is believed to have moved to York.

A drama about the scandal – The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe – will air on Easter Sunday, April 17. The roles of John and Anne will be taken by Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan, with the drama spanning four episodes.

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