How ‘Canoe Man’ John Darwin Escaped The UK By Stealing A Dead Baby’s Identity


John Darwin committed the heinous crime of faking his own death – but his most morbid act has yet to happen.

The 71-year-old con man devised a despicable plot to pretend to be dead at sea in a canoe accident in 2002, while his ex-wife Anne Darwin amassed a £250,000 life insurance policy from he.

The couple have previously lied to police, friends, family and even their two heartbroken sons, who disowned their parents and only recently started building the bridge.

While a manhunt for John begins, he has been secretly living in the woods before moving into a bed next to the family home, which he can enter through the back door of Anne’s closet.

In the second episode of the new ITV drama The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, viewers will see John successfully apply for a passport to create a new identity while forcing Anne to request an inquest into the death. from him so they can get the insurance money.

In real life, John scoured cemeteries and local papers in search of a name he could use and steal the identity of a dead baby.

John Darwin’s police shot after he was finally arrested



John and Anne were exposed by this photo at a real estate agent in Panama


Unknown Internet)

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Police believe he caught John Jones – a child born five months before him but sadly passed away a month later.

Darwin is said to have used John’s name to obtain a birth certificate, then used the document along with a black and white photograph of him with his long bushy beard as a passport.

His suspected intrigue can be taken from the pages of Frederick Forsyth’s classic book The Day of the Jackal, which he is seen reading in the opening episode of the ITV drama.

In the best-selling novel, which was later turned into a movie, a character crosses graveyards in search of the gravestone of a boy whose name will form the basis of his false identity.

During construction, Fox scoured graveyards in search of the headstone of a boy whose name would form the basis of his false identity.

Speaking in 2007, the dead baby’s sister, Frieda Woods, who lived near the cemetery where her brother was buried, said: “It’s horrible to think that this man could have used his brother’s name. I was in my plan I felt terrible what a shock it was.

“When I heard Darwin used the name John Jones, I thought ‘That’s my brother’s name.’ But I never thought Darwin could steal it from him.”

Canoe driver John Darwin faked his own death and turned around 5 years later



John Darwin and his new wife Mercy May


Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)

“My parents always talked about John and told us he was going to die just a month after he was born. He was born premature and low birth weight. In those days, there was not much they could do for the babies. so young.

“My parents are now deceased, but they never forgot him. John was their first child, the eldest of nine years old.”

John Jones was born on March 27, 1950, at his home in Sunderland and died just five weeks later of enteritis at the city’s Hospital for Infectious Diseases.

Frieda’s youngest brother, Alfred Jones, was warned by police that his brother’s name might have been used by Darwin.

He said: “If that’s what he did, he’s brought an innocent family into this, and we’re disgusted. My stomach aches just thinking about my brother’s name being used. in this way. It’s despicable.”

It is claimed that the fake ID was used by Darwin on trips to Gibraltar and Spain to see a sailboat in 2005 and to Panama City and Costa Rica with his ex-wife Anne.

As the astonishing extent of Darwin’s work revealed, another of Alf’s brothers labeled Darwin a “grave thief”.

“If he wants to be a man about it, he should meet me. If he’s really sorry, he can make an apology in court when he was jailed years ago,” Alf said.

Eddie Marsan as John Darwin in the ITV drama



They want a change in the law so that the birth certificates of dead children are stamped to ensure that they cannot be used fraudulently.

Darwin had repeatedly refused to explain his actions to the Jones family, but in 2011 turned around and apologized for using the dead child’s name.

Explaining his morbid actions, Darwin said: “I have selected from the record someone who was born in the same period as me. It could have been anyone. I apologize for my crimes and for any any harm it has caused. There was no malicious intent.”

Over the years, John used their unwarranted earnings to fly around the world in an attempt to start a new life, eventually buying a £200,000 tropical property in a private house. village in Panama in May 2007.

However, a change in Panama’s visa law meant that his plans to settle there were ruined and he returned to the UK claiming he had amnesia.

On December 1, 2007, he walked into a London police station and told officers, “I think I’m a missing person.”

But the couple were rumored to have been rumored by a photo obtained by the Mirror, which showed them in a real estate agent’s office and ran with the headline ‘Canoe’s this in Panama?’.

John was caught shopping last month in the Philippines


Humphrey Nemar)

John was sentenced to six years and three months in prison for admitting fraud by faking her own death, while Anne received six and a half years behind bars for fraud.

He was released from prison in January 2011 after serving half of his sentence, while Anne was released from prison in March 2011.

The couple divorced while behind bars and John moved on to the Philippines and married his bride Filipina Mercy, 23 years younger than him.

His new life was a far cry from the life he dreamed of when a scammer helped steal a wife’s one-time £4.35 t-shirt and panties from her stall in an urban area. Huge indoor market.

Last year it was reported that the couple had moved from the crowded capital Manila to a new home about 30 minutes away and that John was still receiving a British state pension of around £134 a week.

While Anne had a much quieter life working for the RSPCA and even managed to build bridges with her sons.

In the new ITV drama, John is played by Hollywood actor Eddie Marsan, who says the swindler presents a toxic form of masculinity that’s pretty common these days.

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



“John was trying to build a buy-to-let empire and retire early. He had delusions of grandeur,” says Eddie.

“In a narcissistic way, he thinks he is smarter than everyone else,” explains Eddie. “That’s why he has a phone to try this. He thinks he might be smarter than everyone else.

“He views others as only two-dimensional and thinks he is the only three-dimensional person in the world. But he underestimates people’s ability to see through.”

Eddie believes that John’s narcissism is visible in the way he treats his sons, believing that they will simply “get over it in a few weeks” because he didn’t realize they would stick. with him.

When asked if John was a character people would recognize, Eddie added: “Yes. John is a fan of fantasy, but his story appeals to the enthusiast. . I’ve always played characters with psychological delusions, narcissism, or abuse.”

“It used to be that they were on the periphery of the stories. Society was the norm, and they were outside of it. But lately I’ve been playing these characters and now they’re among us.

“The idea of ​​a middle-aged man suffering from self-delusion and narcissism is quite striking.”

* The Thief, His Wife and the CAnoe airs on ITV at 9pm from Easter Sunday to Wednesday April 20

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