John Darwin's police confession after fake death scam finally exposed

‘I paddled out, got my wife to pick me up from the pier… then pushed the canoe back out to sea’: John Darwin’s sombre police confession after his fake death scam was finally exposed

  • Darwin and his wife Anne carried out the trick in order to claim life insurance, and made worldwide headlines
  • The couple were jailed for six years in 2008, after evening hiding the secret from sons Mark and Anthony
  • Couple’s deception is now subject of ITV series The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, which airs again tonight 

‘Canoe Man’ John Darwin’s sombre police confession after his fake death scam was finally exposed has reemerged once more ahead of tonight’s documentary.

The trick, carried out by Darwin and his wife Anne in order to claim his life insurance, made headlines around the world before they were both jailed for fraud.

The couple even hid the secret from their two sons, Mark and Anthony, before finally admitting their lies as police evidence began to stack up.

After a four-part drama series, The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, ran earlier this week on ITV, tonight sees the airing of The Real Story, a documentary about the staggering deception. 

Featured in the film is footage of the couple’s interviews with police, in which Darwin says: ‘I took the canoe out and paddled out to sea. Basically I had made my wife… basically told her that if we were doing things then she had to agree and she’d pick me up. I just pushed [the canoe] out to sea.’

His wife also confessed, telling officers: ‘I knew the day that John had gone missing that he had gone missing and that he’d planned it. I got a telephone call from him at work on that afternoon to say that he was going to go out in the canoe and he wanted me to get home by 7 o’clock that evening to pick him up and help him make his getaway.

‘He’d asked me to pick him up in the car park at North Gare. He wanted me to pick him up about 7. He wasn’t actually there, I had to sit and wait a while. Eventually he came towards the car and he said he had everything with him that he needed.’

Ms Darwin was jailed for six years in 2008, along with her former husband, for fraud after he faked his death in a canoeing accident and disappeared so they could claim his life insurance

Their incredible story is told in The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, starring Eddie Marsan as John and Monica Dolan as Anne

It comes as neighbours of Ms Darwin told MailOnline today how she has taken up hiking to ‘clear her head’ amid the renewed discussion around her criminal past.

The 69-year-old regularly embarks on long solitary walks around the North Yorkshire Moors and Cleveland Hills, those living in the area revealed.

She lives a quiet life by herself in a small one-bedroom bungalow in a pretty village in North Yorkshire.

Avoiding the village shops, tearoom and pub, she instead seeks solace in the surrounding countryside.

Her former husband, meanwhile, has been pictured shopping for his new Filipina wife, as thousands of viewers have tuned in to see their extraordinary story told once again.

The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe has aired every night since Sunday and a documentary, titled The Real Story, is broadcast tonight at 9pm. 

Ms Darwin, who moved into the bungalow just over a year and a half ago, keeps a low profile and has not been seen since the show hit television screens.

Neighbour Sally Scott told MailOnline: ‘She’s not been around for the last couple of days, her car isn’t in the usual spot and hasn’t been since before Easter.

‘I think she’s gone away somewhere because she knew this new TV drama was starting at the weekend and it would bring up her past.’ 

The neighbour added: ‘I speak to her fairly regularly and she’s lovely. To me she comes across as a nice genuine lady who has fitted in to our little community very well.

‘A lot of people are unaware that she is the former wife of ‘Canoe Man’ John Darwin, she’s certainly never mentioned it to me, but a few of us know.

‘She’s moved into the bungalow where my father used to live, that’s how I actually got speaking to her.

‘She’s become really interested in hiking. The first thing she asked me was where was good to walk, and if it was far to Captain Cook’s Monument because she wanted to ‘explore the local area’.

Anne Darwin, the former wife of ‘Canoe Man’ John Darwin, has taken up hiking near her home in a village in North Yorkshire, to ‘clear her head’ as a new TV drama rakes up her criminal past

Ms Darwin and her former husband divorced when they were both in prison. Darwin has since re-married and moved to Manila in the Philippines. He is seen above shopping in the busy area of Antipolo in Manila

Ms Darwin, who moved into her bungalow just over a year and a half ago, keeps a low profile and has not been seen since the drama, named The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, began airing on Sunday evening. Ms Darwin is played by Monica Dolan (right), while her ex-husband is portrayed by Eddie Marsan (left)

‘I see her quite a lot of the time with hiking boots on. She goes for hours, always on her own. It’s good for her mental health, I think, a way of clearing her head, particularly with this new ITV miniseries starting and what it might stir up again.’

Ms Darwin has reconciled with one of her sons, believed to be Mark, who now visits his mother with his wife and two children having previously cut her out of his life.

Both of the boys were unaware their father was still alive and in hiding and had grieved for him.

But the neighbour added: ‘One of her sons helped her move in. She had the grandkids with her at the time.

‘They come and visit now and again. She’s always really pleased to see them because she lives in the bungalow by herself.’

Another local, who asked not to be named, said she was shocked to know that her near neighbour was part of such a notorious con and was the inspiration for The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, which first aired over the weekend and is back on screens again tonight.

She said: ‘I watched the opening episode on Sunday and cannot believe it’s about the woman who lives barely 50-metres from my front door.

‘I’ve only ever spoken to her twice when I’ve passed her on her doorstep. It was just a nod and a ‘hello’. She’s almost like a recluse, you’ll never see her in the village, at the shops or at the pub or cafe.

Undated handout photo issued by Cleveland Police of CCTV from Hartlepool Police station when Anne Darwin was taken into custody

Mrs Darwin is pictured in December 2007, after she had been arrested following her return to Britain. Right: The mother-of-two is seen in March

‘The only time I ever see her leave her home is to go out walking. She’s very quiet, I don’t think she knows many people here at all and very few would be aware of what she’s done.’

Ms Darwin’s former husband John, who she split with while in prison, now lives in the Philippines with a younger woman.

He was reported missing in March 2002 after being seen paddling out to sea in a kayak off Seaton Carew, close to where the couple lived in County Durham.

A huge search operation was launched and the wreckage of his kayak was later found, leading to fears he had drowned in the North Sea.

While presumed dead, Darwin lived for a while in a bed sit next door to the family home and in February 2003 actually moved back in with his wife while his death certificate was issued allowing Ms Darwin to claim his £250,000 life insurance.

John Darwin is seen shortly after he re-surfaced following his disappearance. The image was taken by his children, who at the time believed he really did have amnesia

The couple flew to Panama in 2006 – with Mr Darwin using a fake passport under the alias John Jones – and bought a two-bedroom apartment and later a £200,000 tropical estate, which they planned to turn into a hotel resort and run canoe holidays.

But a change in Panama’s visa laws meant the Darwins indetities would have to be verified by UK police in order for them to receive now-required Panamanian ‘investors’ visas’.

Knowing that his ‘John Jones’ alias would not pass this level of security, Darwin decided to return to the UK under his real name and fake amnesia.

He walked into a central London police station in December 2007, claiming to have no memory of the past five years.

His wife —who had sold up her British properties and moved to Panama three months before his re-appearance—expressed surprise, joy and elation at the return of her missing husband.

However a police investigation into his disappearance had already been set up following a tip from one of Ms Darwin’s colleagues connecting her claim on her husband’s life insurance and her subsequent emigration to Panama.

John and Anne Darwin are seen left in a family photograph with their sons Mark and Anthony. The couple deceived their sons when they colluded to gain life insurance and pensions payouts. Right photo: Anthony (left) and Mark Darwin leave Teesside Crown Court after giving evidence against their mother at her 2008 trial

Their story unravelled further after a photo appeared showing them together in an estate agents office in Panama the previous year.

Darwin was arrested at his son’s house in Basingstoke, Hampshire while his wife was later held at Manchester Airport as she returned to Britain from Panama.

Darwin was was found guilty on deception charges and jailed for six years and three months while his wife was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in jail for fraud and money-laundering charges.

During their time in prison, the couple divorced with Darwin citing ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as a reason for the split.

He moved to Manila and remarried after the divorce to 48-year-old Filipino woman Mercy Mae Avila Darwin.

The couple live outside Manila, with Darwin continuing to receive the UK state pension while his new wife runs a clothes stall.

After her release from prison, Ms Darwin started work for the RSPCA after getting IT and business qualifications while in prison.

Their incredible story is told in The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, starring Eddie Marsan as John and Monica Dolan as Anne.

It’s based on an unpublished manuscript by the journalist David Leigh, who was the first reporter to interview Anne and break the story.

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