Anne Darwin is a soft-spoken former doctor’s receptionist who has found herself at the center of one of the nation’s biggest scandals.
The 70-year-old was sentenced to more than six years in a maximum-security prison after helping ex-husband John Darwin fake his own death in a canoe crash in 2002.
Anne plays the grieving widow who collects John’s £250,000 life insurance money, lying to the police, friends, family and even her son.
They were eventually arrested when John walked into the police station saying he had ‘amnesia’, but their lie was revealed when a photo was taken of the couple in Panama, where they hoped to arrest them. start a new life.
The couple previously divorced while still behind bars and John is now living in Southeast Asia with a much younger new wife, while Anne has quietly rebuilt her life and won the two’s forgiveness. the son.
What role did Anne play in the cruel plot and what is her life like now?
Get news you want straight to your inbox. Sign up for the Mirror newsletter here .
With their finances ruined, John decides to fake his death so Anne can claim his life insurance policy to end their money situation.
In March 2002, he was seen sailing off Seaton Carew beach near Hartlepool and faking an accident while riding a canoe, after which Anne reported him missing and initiated a search operation. Great search and rescue.
Anne collected £250,000 from life insurance payments while John was living in a bed next to the family home, with access through a back door in their bedroom closet.
Talking to Guardians in 2016, Anne explained: “John could also be convinced. He said to me, ‘I just need to disappear for a few weeks and we’ll have the money.” It got out of control.
“The deeper I get into these situations, the harder it is to get out. If I have any ink stains it will last more than a few weeks, there’s no way I can accept it and go through years and years of investigation myself. tons. But once it was done, and he made me lie that he was gone, I couldn’t get out of it.”
For years, the couple used their meager earnings to fly around the world to start a new life, eventually buying a £200,000 tropical property in a village. in Panama in May 2007.
However, when a change in Panama’s visa law meant that John needed to return home, he walked straight into the police station and gave his real name while claiming he had no memory of the years.
In her first TV interview on This Morning in 2016, Anne explained: “He believed he was going to get out of this amnesia, I never expected him to get out of it. . I just feel relieved when the lies will pass.”
“I’m so ashamed of it, I should never have done it. I don’t have the confidence to stand up to John.”
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 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.
Anne told This Morning: “I have no indication the sentence will be this long. It came as a shock.” “Yes, I have sinned and I deserve to be punished. I was not prepared for that.”
Anne was incarcerated in HM Low Newton Prison with the evil serial killer Rose West and was released in March 2011 after serving half of her sentence – two months after John was released from prison.
Their last communication was in prison as John tried to mend their relationship, but Anne finally mustered the courage to end things.
It is understood that John’s letters to close friend Lorraine Forbes, 43, begging her for sex, were the last straw for Anne.
But he didn’t catch the good news and reportedly sent Anne a photo of her with a copyright mark on it, seemingly implying that she was his property.
When they divorced, John actually invoked “irrational behavior” – and he has since been married to his bride Filipina Mercy, who is 23 years younger than him.
The couple’s sons, Anthony and Mark, have publicly denounced their parents and said they want no more contact with them.
Anne explained to The Guardian: “After it was revealed that we were living together in Panama, I kept writing to Mark and Anthony to say, ‘I’m so sorry. I really love you guys”.
“But they refused to see or talk to me. The first time I laid eyes on them [afterwards] at my trial when Mark was the first to testify against me. After leaving the witness box, he only raised his eyes briefly to meet me. I was completely shocked by their darkness and anger. To see that it was absolutely terrible. “
After nine long years of building bridges after what Mark describes as “indescribable pain”, he claims he has finally forgiven his mother.
Mark said: “It was a cruel act of betrayal that no parent can inflict on their children – the pain and suffering it caused me and my brother is indescribable. okay. is something that will affect my life forever.”
He added: “I have forgiven her, to some extent, but I will never understand, nor forget.”
Anne has also reunited with Anthony and spent time with her four nieces, who are still too young to understand her notoriety.
With her degrees from prison, she found a job with the RSPCA and moved to a village outside York.
Anne wrote about her experiences in her book Out of My Depth, with proceeds going to the RNLI and RSPCA.
Speaking on This Morning in 2016, Anne said: “I got over it [depression in prison] with help and I turned my life around. I took every opportunity I could with everything I had in prison and education. I have equipped myself with up-to-date qualifications so that I can find a job and give myself the best chance to start a new life. “
Last month, Anne was tracked to a village near Middlesbrough, where very few of her neighbors know about her controversial past.
Based on Daily mailshe has reverted to her maiden name and would not comment when asked about the new ITV drama.
A neighbor told them: “We simply know her as Anne. She is very quiet but friendly. She never mentioned what she did, but then why she did it. must do.
“I remember the whole story about the canoe. It’s interesting that she lives here, but I assume it’s been a long time and she’s getting on with her life.”
In The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, Anne is played by Monica Dolan, who has also starred in W1A, Death in Paradise and as Rose West in Adult Fit in 2011.
The actress admitted Anne had a hard time and must have struggled with the “gym mentality” of being married to a dreamer like John, but also admitted that you can’t be too much. sympathy because “the circumstances are self-imposed”.
When asked how much she believed in Anne’s story, Monica said, “When I was playing Anne, I was constantly thinking, to quote Mandy Rice Davies, ‘she’s going to say it, yes. are not?’
“Everything in the story is told from her point of view. One thing I’ve learned about economic abuse is that it’s very hard to prove. So the main thing I mean is it’s very difficult to know where she is. any degree for him.
“She did a lot of things independently of him, but her argument was that she could always hear him in her head as she coerced her. At the time, the jury was not convinced by her argument.
“She did very well in the surgery where she worked. Obviously she is a very, very good manager. She is not an idiot. So are we underestimating her? her if we say, ‘she must have known nothing about that’?”
Monica didn’t get a chance to meet Anne but did read her book, although much of her performance came from the script.
Monica said: “From the beginning, Anne didn’t want to contribute to this production. She did her best and I respect that. I’m okay with it.
“Also, I’ve learned that the least useful thing an actor can bring into the room is judgment. That’s pretty much the opposite of what we should be doing.
“I also want to capitalize that this is a character in the script. I’ve never met her. It’s her role and it’s a TV series.”
The former couple were reluctant to speak to the filmmakers when approached about the series, but writer Chris Lang says there’s a lot of material in the public domain that they don’t feel like they’re missing anything. whatever.
“Anne has written her own book and feels she has nothing more to say,” he said. “John is also uncooperative. He lives in the Philippines and is now remarried. But it’s still a debut account.”
Chris wanted to convey how Anne was controlled by her husband for decades, but did not want to downplay the crimes she committed.
He explained: “We owe it to our sons, the true victims of John and Anne’s crimes, to be true. I can’t imagine a greater betrayal than a mother telling you that your father died when she learned that he was indeed still alive”.
“Pretend to grieve for five years, let them grieve for five years – what would make a mother do that? That seems unthinkable to any parent.”
* The Thief, His Wife and the CAnoe airs on ITV at 9pm from Easter Sunday to Wednesday April 20
Got a story to share? Emailwebfeatures@trinitymirror.com
https://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/anne-darwin-now-john-divorce-26735523 Where is Anne Darwin now - John's divorce, sons' forgiveness and hidden new life