John Darwin certainly didn’t die in a canoe crash – and is now living a different life thousands of miles away from his incredible crime scene.
The 71-year-old con man faked his own death in 2002 in a rogue plot with his ex-wife Anne Darwin, who played the grieving widow and helped him secure a $250,000 life insurance policy. pound.
The former couple, who came up with the scheme after finding themselves deeply in debt, tried to work it out for five years until John ‘rises from the dead’ and words Their lies were finally exposed with a simple photo.
They have since divorced and John now lives in Southeast Asia with a much younger new wife, who is somewhat ironically Mercy, and he still receives his UK state pension.
The Philippine Pacific’s 34 degrees Celsius heat is a far cry from the frigid Seaton Carew beach in County Durham, where John faked his death by paddling out to sea.
So how did John fake his own death and what is his life like now?
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John, a former teacher and correctional officer, decided that the best way to dig himself out of the financial hole was by his fake death.
In March 2002, he was seen sailing off Seaton Carew beach near Hartlepool and faking a boating accident, which sparked a major search and rescue operation when Anne informed reported him missing.
She plays a grieving widow who lies to the police as well as to their family and friends, including their two sons, who believe their father died when his canoe was smashed. be found.
Although John later admitted that he actually almost lost his life while trying to prank.
In his unpublished memoir, seen by the Mirror, he writes: “I started rowing again, towards the jetty I’d spotted a few minutes earlier. After that, I wasn’t able to. see South Gare. [breakwater at the mouth of the River Tees].
“I actually rowed out a lot, much farther than I intended. To my great horror, I realized that I might have been swept away and died. I almost did it once. meaningless way.”
While Anne collected £250,000 from life insurance payments, her husband initially hid in a bed the couple owned next to the family home.
They made a door behind a closet into Anne’s bedroom and John even grew a bushy beard to camouflage him so he could boldly go into town.
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.
After changing Panama’s visa laws, John realized he would need police paperwork so he went home and gave them his real name – claiming he had amnesia.
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.
He was released in 2011 after serving half of his sentence and wanted to mend his marriage, but when Anne refused, he divorced her on the grounds of inappropriate behavior. physical.
Two years after his release, John broke the terms of his parole to meet a young Ukrainian woman he had met on a foreign brides website for women looking for a rich husband. yes.
He told her that hundreds of women wanted to meet him and he received 240 texts from admirers in one day, but she never wanted to see him again after the first date. .
Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)
In 2015, John married his bride Filipina Mercidita, aka Mercy, 23 years his junior and whose business includes a clothing stand in a giant indoor market.
His new life is a far cry from the life he dreamed of when the scammer helped get his wife’s one-time £4.35 t-shirt and panties from the market.
In 2016, the hostess said that John spent most of his time locked in his room because of an allergy to dust in the world’s most populous capital.
Last year, it was reported that the couple had left the crowded capital Manila for a new home about 30 minutes away, and it is believed they left their property next to them.
John still receives a pension of around £134 a week and Mercy May said: “I have a new business. I’ve had it for three years now. Booming. Making money.”
In bizarre scenes last month, John’s wife claimed he was “on the way” to fight the Russians in Ukraine.
Despite being in his 70s, John is expected to take up arms and fight Vladimir Putin’s forces, according to Mercy.
When asked about the danger, she added: “Yes, dangerous for the Russians when he shoots them (sic).
“He’ll have a bulletproof vest and good life insurance, good for me.”
Most recently, an insolent-looking John was caught on a sunny shopping trip in the Philippines at a store called WILCON sarcastically.
John refused to answer questions as he jumped into his £25,000 SUV and sped away, but wife Mercy later talked about his plans to make money again with another book.
Mercy explains: “The book is about his life, but it’s not done yet. You have to wait.”
While a friend said: “John and Mercy are really happy together. He feels like he’s been given a second chance at life and he’s holding it with both hands.”
Mercy is angry The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe were made without her husband’s permission, but the show’s writer says he refuses to work with them.
The series was inspired by a book by former Daily Mirror reporter David Leigh, who found Anne in Panama after John returned to the UK in 2007.
John will be played by Hollywood actor Eddie Marsan, who says the scammer lacks empathy and has “an illusion of greatness”.
“In a narcissistic way, he thinks he’s smarter than everyone else,” says Eddie. “That’s why he has a phone to try this. He thinks he might be smarter than everyone else.
“He views other people 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.”
The actor describes the man he is portraying as an “imaginary man” with a toxic form of masculinity, which is sadly quite common in today’s society.
When asked what he would say to John if they met, Eddie replied, “I would say, ‘What are you thinking? That’s crazy!’ But I don’t know if I want to see him.
“He probably misunderstood that it wasn’t Brad Pitt playing him. When he heard it was me, he might think, ‘great.’ Thanks very much! “.”
In tonight’s first episode, viewers will get to meet John and Anne, who we immediately discover are a couple in debt.
Faced with bankruptcy, John decides to fake his own death using his canoe, to the horror of his wife, who comforts their sons while he goes into hiding.
Writer Chris Lang described John as “quite charismatic and funny”, but added that he had “absolutely no conscience” or a sense of how his actions would be perceived.
Chris explains: “Like many narcissists, he also aspires to look more successful than he already has.
“John had a Range Rover with a personalized license plate to scream to the world ‘look at me, look how well I’m doing’, but the truth is he exaggerated himself. catastrophically.
“Here’s a man who earns a relatively modest salary as a prison officer (she’s the GP’s receptionist) but has a mortgage on nearly 20 properties, no real estate. which he can serve.
Neither John nor Anne chose to work with the filmmakers when approached about the series, but Chris says there’s so much material in the public domain that they don’t feel like they’re missing anything.
He added: “Anne has written her own book and feels she has nothing more to say. John is also uncooperative. He lives in the Philippines and is now remarried. But that is still the first account. hand.”
* The Thief, His Wife and the CAnoe airs on ITV at 9pm from Easter Sunday to Wednesday April 20
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https://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/john-darwin-now-canoe-man-26665444 Where is John Darwin now?