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The former wife of ‘Canoe Man’ John Darwin has taken up hiking to ‘clear her head’, neighbours told MailOnline today, as a new TV drama rakes up her criminal past.

Anne Darwin, 69, 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 the pretty village of Great Ayton, 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.

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.

The deception, which the couple even hid from their two sons, Mark and Anthony, made headlines around the world and is now the subject of ITV four-part series The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe.

The drama 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.’ 

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

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

Anne Darwin, the former wife of ‘Canoe Man’ John Darwin, has taken up hiking near her home in the village of  Great Ayton, 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 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 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

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”.

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

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

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

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)

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)

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)

Avoiding the village shops, tearoom and pub, Ms Darwin instead seeks solace in the countryside surrounding Great Ayton. Pictured: The nearby Roseberry Topping

Avoiding the village shops, tearoom and pub, Ms Darwin instead seeks solace in the countryside surrounding Great Ayton. Pictured: The nearby Roseberry Topping

Avoiding the village shops, tearoom and pub, Ms Darwin instead seeks solace in the countryside surrounding Great Ayton. Pictured: The nearby Roseberry Topping

‘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

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

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

Mrs Darwin is pictured above in 2007, after she had been arrested following her return to Britain

Mrs Darwin is pictured above in 2007, after she had been arrested following her return to Britain

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.

None of the Darwin family were involved in making the drama, though the script was based on court documents, police interviews and media (file photo of John)

None of the Darwin family were involved in making the drama, though the script was based on court documents, police interviews and media (file photo of John)

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 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

John and Anne Darwin are seen 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

Anthony (left) and Mark Darwin leave Teesside Crown Court after giving evidence against their mother at her 2008 trial

Anthony (left) and Mark Darwin leave Teesside Crown Court after giving evidence against their mother at her 2008 trial

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.

‘Press your spotty legs against my flea bites’: The smutty emails between Canoe Man John Darwin as he hid out in Panama and his ‘sexy beast’ wife Anne that landed them in jail over fake death conspiracy

At her trial, the wife of ‘Canoe Man’ John Darwin had insisted that she was coerced into the £680,000 fraud plot that saw her ‘domineering’ husband fake his own death. 

But emails exchanged between the pair revealed how Anne Darwin was in fact fully embroiled in the scam that duped insurers into paying out so they could start a new life in Panama.  

Darwin, a prison officer who was mired in debt, made it look as though he had died after going out to sea in his canoe near the home he shared with his wife and two sons in Seaton Carew, County Durham, in 2002.  

A large-scale search involving the scouring of 62 square miles of coastline looked to have confirmed the worst, as only a single paddle and then the wreckage of his kayak was discovered. 

But five years later, a bedraggled Darwin turned up at a police station in London, claiming to have no memory of anything that had happened to him. 

Very quickly, it emerged that Darwin and Anne had engaged in a web of deceit that included lying to sons Mark and Anthony that he was dead so they could buy a flat in Panama. 

They were ultimately convicted of fraud and sentenced to more than six years each in prison, but both were released in 2011 after serving half their terms. 

After her conviction in July 2008, emails sent between Anne and Darwin showed the extent of their collusion.  

In one, sent four days before she flew out to Panama, Anne bombarded her husband with typed out kisses as she spoke of her excitement and said she loved him.

In another, she told her husband she was ‘missing’ him already, just hours after he had left her in Panama to fly back to England and dramatically claim to police that he had lost his memory. 

Meanwhile, Darwin’s emails to his wife were often filled with innuendo and lewd depictions. In one, he called her a ‘sexy beast’ and said he was typing ‘in the nudy’ on the balcony in the Panama flat.

In another, he moaned about his problems sleeping and said he was ‘sure’ he had ‘fleas’, adding that he wanted his wife to ‘press your spotty legs against my flea bites nd [sic] we can squash the buggers, we might even enjoy it’.  

At her trial, the wife of 'Canoe Man' John Darwin had insisted that she was coerced into the £680,000 fraud plot that saw her 'domineering' husband fake his own death. But emails exchanged between the pair revealed how Anne Darwin was in fact fully embroiled in the scam that duped insurers into paying out so they could start a new life in Panama

At her trial, the wife of 'Canoe Man' John Darwin had insisted that she was coerced into the £680,000 fraud plot that saw her 'domineering' husband fake his own death. But emails exchanged between the pair revealed how Anne Darwin was in fact fully embroiled in the scam that duped insurers into paying out so they could start a new life in Panama

At her trial, the wife of ‘Canoe Man’ John Darwin had insisted that she was coerced into the £680,000 fraud plot that saw her ‘domineering’ husband fake his own death. But emails exchanged between the pair revealed how Anne Darwin was in fact fully embroiled in the scam that duped insurers into paying out so they could start a new life in Panama

In one, sent four days before she flew out to Panama, Anne bombarded her husband with typed out kisses as she spoke of her excitement and said she loved him

In one, sent four days before she flew out to Panama, Anne bombarded her husband with typed out kisses as she spoke of her excitement and said she loved him

In one, sent four days before she flew out to Panama, Anne bombarded her husband with typed out kisses as she spoke of her excitement and said she loved him

Meanwhile, Darwin's emails to his wife were often filled with innuendo and lewd depictions. In one, he called her a 'sexy beast' and said he was typing 'in the nudy' on the balcony in the Panama flat

Meanwhile, Darwin's emails to his wife were often filled with innuendo and lewd depictions. In one, he called her a 'sexy beast' and said he was typing 'in the nudy' on the balcony in the Panama flat

Meanwhile, Darwin’s emails to his wife were often filled with innuendo and lewd depictions. In one, he called her a ‘sexy beast’ and said he was typing ‘in the nudy’ on the balcony in the Panama flat

In a third email sent by Anne to her husband, where she revealed she had sold the family home to help fund their new life in Panama, she included smiley faces.

And in a  3,200-word message home to family, the supposedly coerced wife spoke of her wonderful new life – minus the fact that her husband was secretly with her. 

‘I got up early this morning had breakfast on the terrace and then set about a bit of housework (in my bikini),’ she wrote. 

She also drew a contrast between the ‘pigeons’ back in Seaton Carew and the humming bird that she said ‘flies over the terrace’, before adding that ‘it’s the same every day in paradise’. 

The Darwins’ plot was exposed after a photo emerged online of them in the office of an estate agent in Panama, where they had gone to run an eco-resort as well as live. 

For much of Darwin’s missing five years, he had been living in secret in his own home in the seaside resort of Seaton Carew, where he shared a bed with his wife.

John and Anne Darwin are seen 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

John and Anne Darwin are seen 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

Anthony (left) and Mark Darwin leave Teesside Crown Court after giving evidence against their mother at her 2008 trial

Anthony (left) and Mark Darwin leave Teesside Crown Court after giving evidence against their mother at her 2008 trial

John and Anne Darwin are seen 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

For much of Darwin's missing five years, he had been living in secret in his own home (pictured), where he shared a bed with his wife. And when family and friends visited – and his sons returned from the inquest into his alleged death – Darwin hid in a bedsit next door that was accessed through a passageway hidden behind the door of a fake cupboard

For much of Darwin's missing five years, he had been living in secret in his own home (pictured), where he shared a bed with his wife. And when family and friends visited – and his sons returned from the inquest into his alleged death – Darwin hid in a bedsit next door that was accessed through a passageway hidden behind the door of a fake cupboard

For much of Darwin’s missing five years, he had been living in secret in his own home (pictured), where he shared a bed with his wife. And when family and friends visited – and his sons returned from the inquest into his alleged death – Darwin hid in a bedsit next door that was accessed through a passageway hidden behind the door of a fake cupboard

None of the Darwin family were involved in making the drama, though the script was based on court documents, police interviews and media (file photo of John)

None of the Darwin family were involved in making the drama, though the script was based on court documents, police interviews and media (file photo of John)

Mercy Mae Avila Darwin, 48, said her 71-year-old husband John (both seen in the Philippines), who faked his death for money, is 'on his way' to join troops fighting against Russian forces

Mercy Mae Avila Darwin, 48, said her 71-year-old husband John (both seen in the Philippines), who faked his death for money, is 'on his way' to join troops fighting against Russian forces

John Darwin is seen pictured left shortly after he re-surfaced following his disappearance. Right: The now 71-year-old his seen with his second wife Mercy Mae Avila Darwin  

Mrs Darwin is pictured above in 2007, after she had been arrested following her return to Britain

Mrs Darwin is pictured above in 2007, after she had been arrested following her return to Britain

The mother-of-two is seen this week

The mother-of-two is seen this week

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

And when family and friends visited – and his sons returned from the inquest that ruled he had died at sea – Darwin hid in a bedsit in the property next door that he and his wife also owned. 

Darwin later admitted that he would carry out DIY on the front of his family home and even walked around his area disguised as an old man – even as his two now grown-up sons Anthony and Mark continued to grieve for him thinking he was dead. 

At her trial, Anne used the defence of ‘marital coercion’, claiming that she had been bullied into cooperating with her husband. By contrast, her husband pleaded guilty. 

She had claimed in an interview with the Daily Mail after her and her husband’s plot had been exposed that she had truly believed he had died in a canoeing accident and was shocked and amazed when he turned up on her doorstep a year later. 

In fact, as she later revealed in her 2016 book, Anne had met Darwin at the beach after he had hatched his plot to make it appear as though he had been swept away by waves and his canoe had been smashed to pieces. 

She then drove him to Durham railway station, before he went on to Newcastle and then Carlisle, before she picked him up from Cumbria three weeks later and brought him back to the family home. 

As she also recounted in her book, in 2004 Anne even took her sons to the spot where her husband pretended to go missing so that the family could throw floral tributes into the sea, two years on from his ‘death’. 

Anne was ultimately given three months longer in prison than her husband because of her not guilty plea. She was described by police at the time as a ‘compulsive liar’. 

In a third email sent by Anne to her husband, where she revealed she had sold the family home to help fund their new life in Panama, she included smiley faces

In a third email sent by Anne to her husband, where she revealed she had sold the family home to help fund their new life in Panama, she included smiley faces

In a third email sent by Anne to her husband, where she revealed she had sold the family home to help fund their new life in Panama, she included smiley faces

Shortly before Anne joins her husband in Panama, he tells her of his struggles with speaking Spanish and pleads for her to come and join him

Shortly before Anne joins her husband in Panama, he tells her of his struggles with speaking Spanish and pleads for her to come and join him

Shortly before Anne joins her husband in Panama, he tells her of his struggles with speaking Spanish and pleads for her to come and join him

In another email, Darwin moaned about his problems sleeping and said he was 'sure' he had 'fleas', adding that he wanted his wife to 'press your spotty legs against my flea bites nd [sic] we can squash the buggers, we might even enjoy it'

In another email, Darwin moaned about his problems sleeping and said he was 'sure' he had 'fleas', adding that he wanted his wife to 'press your spotty legs against my flea bites nd [sic] we can squash the buggers, we might even enjoy it'

In another email, Darwin moaned about his problems sleeping and said he was ‘sure’ he had ‘fleas’, adding that he wanted his wife to ‘press your spotty legs against my flea bites nd [sic] we can squash the buggers, we might even enjoy it’

In a 3,200-word message home to family, the supposedly coerced wife spoke of her wonderful new life - minus the fact that her husband was secretly with her. 'I got up early this morning had breakfast on the terrace and then set about a bit of housework (in my bikini),' she wrote

In a 3,200-word message home to family, the supposedly coerced wife spoke of her wonderful new life - minus the fact that her husband was secretly with her. 'I got up early this morning had breakfast on the terrace and then set about a bit of housework (in my bikini),' she wrote

In a 3,200-word message home to family, the supposedly coerced wife spoke of her wonderful new life – minus the fact that her husband was secretly with her. ‘I got up early this morning had breakfast on the terrace and then set about a bit of housework (in my bikini),’ she wrote

In another email, Anne told her husband she was 'missing' him already, just hours after he had left her in Panama to fly back to England and dramatically claim to police that he had lost his memory

In another email, Anne told her husband she was 'missing' him already, just hours after he had left her in Panama to fly back to England and dramatically claim to police that he had lost his memory

In another email, Anne told her husband she was ‘missing’ him already, just hours after he had left her in Panama to fly back to England and dramatically claim to police that he had lost his memory

Her not guilty plea also led to the prosecution calling her own sons to give evidence against her. Mark branded her a ‘hideous, lying b****’ in an interview with the Mail on Sunday.

‘I hadn’t even considered that my children would be called by the prosecution,’ she said in her book. ‘I will never, ever forgive myself for making my sons give evidence against their own mother. It is a decision I bitterly regret.’ 

When he gave evidence against his mother, Anthony told how he had at first presumed that the photograph of his parents in Panama must have been doctored, before he realised he had been duped. 

‘It’s bewildering,’ said Anthony. ‘They’re as bad as each other. Dad told one nasty lie and disappeared and said he was dead, but she lied for six years, she was the face of the lies, she kept on lying even when the evidence was so overwhelmingly against her. 

‘She dragged us through hell by forcing a court case.’ 

Anne’s trial lasted nine days and she was found guilty of deception and money laundering. 

Imposing what he called ‘a particularly severe sentence’, the judge pointed to the duration of the offending, and in particular the grief inflicted over the years to those who, in truth, were the real victims, your own sons’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canoe fraudster John Darwin leaves Teesside Crown Court in 2014. A judge previously ordered he should repay £679,073

Canoe fraudster John Darwin leaves Teesside Crown Court in 2014. A judge previously ordered he should repay £679,073

Canoe fraudster John Darwin leaves Teesside Crown Court in 2014. A judge previously ordered he should repay £679,073

Despite the incredible extent of her deceit, both Mark and Anthony eventually forgave their mother. They visited her in prison and remained in her life afterwards. 

Anne and Darwin got divorced while they were in prison and the pair were both released on licence in early 2011, halfway through their sentences. 

Darwin, now 71, lives with his 48-year-old second wife Mercy Mae in her native Manila. 

Anne initially moved to sheltered housing in York and had a part-time job with the RSPCA. She now lives in a village outside Middlesbrough but did not wish to comment when she was tracked down by MailOnline. 

The pair both refused to cooperate with the making of new ITV series The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, which stars Eddie Marsan as Darwin and Monica Dolan. 

Sunday’s episode of the four-part series depicted the moment that Anne told her sons she was selling the family homes and moving to Panama. 

She was seen showing them some of her husband’s remaining possessions and telling them they could keep what they wished. Mark chose a book that had been printed in 2003, after his father had supposedly died. 

Anne said he only noticed this damning fact later. 

Dolan’s character is seen telling her sons: ‘Take whatever you want, or take nothing at all if it doesn’t feel right. It is entirely up to you.’

The camera then shows a trove of possessions on the table, including three books, a tape recorder, a watch and Darwin’s original passport. 

A drama about John and Anne Darwin's fraud, titled The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, is currently airing on ITV. It stars Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan (both pictured)

A drama about John and Anne Darwin's fraud, titled The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, is currently airing on ITV. It stars Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan (both pictured)

A drama about John and Anne Darwin’s fraud, titled The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, is currently airing on ITV. It stars Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan (both pictured)

Unbeknown to her sons, she had already set up home with Darwin in a flat they had bought and had had the picture taken that would expose their fraud.   

Writing of the moment that she told her sons she was emigrating to the country, Anne Darwin said in her book: ‘Though shocked that I — supposedly a widow — was contemplating moving halfway across the world to a place in which I’d never expressed the slightest interest, Anthony and Mark both supported my decision.

‘It was just another of the wicked lies I told them, which I will regret to my dying day.

‘Before I left for good, I asked the boys if they would like a keepsake from their father’s possessions.

‘Mark chose a pair of black onyx cufflinks and his wristwatch, while Anthony opted for his pocket watch, wedding ring and passport.

‘He also selected some books, one of which he later realised had been printed in 2003, long after his dad had supposedly ‘died’.

‘Another had an American sticker on it, and Anthony realised that it must have been bought while his supposedly deceased dad was on his travels.’

How Canoe Man’s ruse was nearly rumbled by his SON: Grieving child discovered book amongst his father’s personal effects that was dated AFTER his supposed death… revealing his secret globe-trotting

From the moment that ‘Canoe Man’ John Darwin disappeared from his home in County Durham in 2002, his two sons Mark and Anthony had believed the worst.

But five years later, a bedraggled Darwin turned up at a police station in London, claiming to have no memory of anything that had happened to him.

Very quickly, it emerged that the former prison officer had engaged in a web of deceit with his wife Anne to carry out a £680,000 fraud that ultimately saw the couple live together in Panama.

The couple had told no one of their plot and had even made their sons believe that the worst had happened.

In her 2016 memoir, penned after her release from prison, Anne recounted how, when she told them she was emigrating to the South American country and was selling the family homes, her two sons had selected possessions of their father’s to keep in memory of him.

But the couple’s plot was nearly exposed when Anthony chose a book that had been printed in 2003, the year after his father had supposedly died. Incredibly, Mrs Darwin said Anthony only noticed this fact later.

The Darwins’ cruel collusion tore their sons’ lives apart, with one of them branding their mother a ‘hideous, lying b***h’ and testifying against her in court at her trial.

John and Anne Darwin are seen 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

John and Anne Darwin are seen 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

Anthony (left) and Mark Darwin leave Teesside Crown Court after giving evidence against their mother at her 2008 trial

Anthony (left) and Mark Darwin leave Teesside Crown Court after giving evidence against their mother at her 2008 trial

John and Anne Darwin are seen 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

When father-of-two John Darwin (pictured with his wife Anne in Panama) went missing in his canoe in the sea outside his home in County Durham in 2002, his own sons believed he was dead

When father-of-two John Darwin (pictured with his wife Anne in Panama) went missing in his canoe in the sea outside his home in County Durham in 2002, his own sons believed he was dead

When father-of-two John Darwin (pictured left in Panama with his wife Anne) went missing in his canoe in the sea outside his home in County Durham in 2002, his own sons believed he was dead. Five years later, a bedraggled Darwin turned up at a police station in London, claiming to have amnesia. Very quickly, it emerged that the he had carried out a £680,000 fraud with his wife Anne that ultimately saw the couple live together in Panama. Right: How Darwin looked after faking his death

The moment that the Darwins’ sons selected possessions to keep was depicted in last night’s episode of ITV Drama The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, which retells the saga. It stars Eddie Marsan as Darwin and Monica Dolan as his wife.

Dolan’s character is seen telling her sons: ‘Take whatever you want, or take nothing at all if it doesn’t feel right. It is entirely up to you.’

The camera then shows a trove of possessions on the table, including three books, a tape recorder, a watch and Darwin’s original passport.

Darwin told her sons she was moving to Panama after she had received thousands of pounds in life insurance and pension money.

It enabled her to pay off the debts that she and her husband had accrued. Whilst her sons believed she was going there alone, she had in fact already set up home with Darwin in a flat in Panama and had had a picture taken with him that would later expose the pair’s giant fraud.

Writing of the moment that she told her sons she was emigrating to the country, Anne Darwin said in her book: ‘Though shocked that I — supposedly a widow — was contemplating moving halfway across the world to a place in which I’d never expressed the slightest interest, Anthony and Mark both supported my decision.

‘It was just another of the wicked lies I told them, which I will regret to my dying day.

‘Before I left for good, I asked the boys if they would like a keepsake from their father’s possessions.

‘Mark chose a pair of black onyx cufflinks and his wristwatch, while Anthony opted for his pocket watch, wedding ring and passport.

‘He also selected some books, one of which he later realised had been printed in 2003, long after his dad had supposedly ‘died’.

‘Another had an American sticker on it, and Anthony realised that it must have been bought while his supposedly deceased dad was on his travels.’

The scenes of them selecting possessions to keep were depicted in last night's episode of ITV Drama The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, which retells the saga. It stars Eddie Marsan as Darwin and Monica Dolan (pictured) as his wife. Above: Darwin showing her two boys into a room containing their father's possessions

The scenes of them selecting possessions to keep were depicted in last night's episode of ITV Drama The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, which retells the saga. It stars Eddie Marsan as Darwin and Monica Dolan (pictured) as his wife. Above: Darwin showing her two boys into a room containing their father's possessions

The scenes of them selecting possessions to keep were depicted in last night’s episode of ITV Drama The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, which retells the saga. It stars Eddie Marsan as Darwin and Monica Dolan (pictured) as his wife. Above: Darwin showing her two boys into a room containing their father’s possessions

The camera then shows a trove of possessions on the table, including three books, a tape recorder, a watch and Darwin's original passport

The camera then shows a trove of possessions on the table, including three books, a tape recorder, a watch and Darwin's original passport

The camera then shows a trove of possessions on the table, including three books, a tape recorder, a watch and Darwin’s original passport

The two brothers are also seen smiling at they look at their father's original passport, totally unaware that he is still alive

The two brothers are also seen smiling at they look at their father's original passport, totally unaware that he is still alive

The two brothers are also seen smiling at they look at their father’s original passport, totally unaware that he is still alive

An ITV drama about John and Anne Darwin's fraud, titled The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, airs in April. Pictured: Eddie Marsan as Darwin and Monica Dolan as his wife

An ITV drama about John and Anne Darwin's fraud, titled The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, airs in April. Pictured: Eddie Marsan as Darwin and Monica Dolan as his wife

An ITV drama about John and Anne Darwin’s fraud, titled The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, airs in April. Pictured: Eddie Marsan as Darwin and Monica Dolan as his wife

For much of Darwin's missing five years, he had been living in secret in his own home (pictured), where he shared a bed with his wife. And when family and friends visited – and his sons returned from the inquest into his alleged death – Darwin hid in a bedsit next door that was accessed through a passageway hidden behind the door of a fake cupboard

For much of Darwin's missing five years, he had been living in secret in his own home (pictured), where he shared a bed with his wife. And when family and friends visited – and his sons returned from the inquest into his alleged death – Darwin hid in a bedsit next door that was accessed through a passageway hidden behind the door of a fake cupboard

For much of Darwin’s missing five years, he had been living in secret in his own home (pictured), where he shared a bed with his wife. And when family and friends visited – and his sons returned from the inquest into his alleged death – Darwin hid in a bedsit next door that was accessed through a passageway hidden behind the door of a fake cupboard

None of the Darwin family were involved in making the drama, though the script was based on court documents, police interviews and media (file photo of John)

None of the Darwin family were involved in making the drama, though the script was based on court documents, police interviews and media (file photo of John)

Mercy Mae Avila Darwin, 48, said her 71-year-old husband John (both seen in the Philippines), who faked his death for money, is 'on his way' to join troops fighting against Russian forces

Mercy Mae Avila Darwin, 48, said her 71-year-old husband John (both seen in the Philippines), who faked his death for money, is 'on his way' to join troops fighting against Russian forces

John Darwin is seen pictured left shortly after he re-surfaced following his disappearance. Right: The now 71-year-old his seen with his second wife Mercy Mae Avila Darwin  

Canoe fraudster John Darwin leaves Teesside Crown Court in 2014. A judge previously ordered he should repay £679,073

Canoe fraudster John Darwin leaves Teesside Crown Court in 2014. A judge previously ordered he should repay £679,073

Canoe fraudster John Darwin leaves Teesside Crown Court in 2014. A judge previously ordered he should repay £679,073

Mrs Darwin is pictured above in 2007, after she had been arrested following her return to Britain

Mrs Darwin is pictured above in 2007, after she had been arrested following her return to Britain

The mother-of-two is seen this week

The mother-of-two is seen this week

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

Mrs Darwin said her sons were ‘grief-stricken’ at the time of the handover. She added that it was ‘very emotional’ for her to see the pair’s reactions.

‘I was happy that they had something of John’s but I felt awful because I was, yet again, deceiving them,’ she said.

The Darwins’ plot was exposed after a photo emerged online of them in the office of an estate agent in Panama.

For much of Darwin’s missing five years, he had been living in secret in his own home in the seaside resort of Seaton Carew, where he shared a bed with his wife.

And when family and friends visited – and his sons returned from the inquest into his alleged death – Darwin hid in a bedsit the couple owned next door that was accessed through a passageway that linked the two properties.

Darwin later admitted that he would carry out DIY on the front of his family home and even walked around his area disguised as an old man – even as his two now grown-up sons Anthony and Mark continued to grieve for him.

After they had served half of the six-year jail sentences they were handed for their crimes, the couple divorced – with Darwin remarrying and moving to the Philippines.

After her release from prison, Anne Darwin moved to a village near York and was able to get a new job with the RSPCA thanks to qualifications she gained in prison. She was also able to reconcile with her two sons. 

She claimed in her memoir that, a week after her husband had ‘disappeared’ – in what was their first conversation since the plot was hatched – she pleaded with him to let her tell their sons that he was alive.

Darwin refused and instead callously told her: ‘They’ll get over it. The police will stop looking and everyone will go home and get back to normal. Trust me.’

Mrs Darwin also recounted in her book the moment that Mark and Anthony discovered their father was alive. 

The fraudster opted to return to the UK from Panama when the South American country’s government changed its visa rules, meaning that to get permanent residency he needed a letter from his local police force in Britain testifying to his ‘good character’.

Mark Darwin arrives at Teesside Crown Court during his mother's fraud trial in 2008. Anne Darwin became alienated from her sons after her and her husband's fraud was exposed

Mark Darwin arrives at Teesside Crown Court during his mother's fraud trial in 2008. Anne Darwin became alienated from her sons after her and her husband's fraud was exposed

Mark Darwin arrives at Teesside Crown Court during his mother’s fraud trial in 2008. Anne Darwin became alienated from her sons after her and her husband’s fraud was exposed

In a statement in December 2007, after their parents' lies had been uncovered, Mark and Anthony Darwin said: 'How could our mam continue to let us believe our dad had died when he was very much in alive?' Pictured: Anthony Darwin in 2007

In a statement in December 2007, after their parents' lies had been uncovered, Mark and Anthony Darwin said: 'How could our mam continue to let us believe our dad had died when he was very much in alive?' Pictured: Anthony Darwin in 2007

In a statement in December 2007, after their parents’ lies had been uncovered, Mark and Anthony Darwin said: ‘How could our mam continue to let us believe our dad had died when he was very much in alive?’ Pictured: Anthony Darwin in 2007

Anthony (right) and Mark Darwin leave Teeside Crown court after their parents Anne and John Darwin were sentenced to over six years in prison each on July 23, 2008

Anthony (right) and Mark Darwin leave Teeside Crown court after their parents Anne and John Darwin were sentenced to over six years in prison each on July 23, 2008

Anthony (right) and Mark Darwin leave Teeside Crown court after their parents Anne and John Darwin were sentenced to over six years in prison each on July 23, 2008

Brothers Anthony Darwin (front right) and Mark Darwin (rear left) leave Teeside Crown Court after their mother Anne Darwin was jailed for six and a half years and their father John Darwin was jailed for six years and three months

Brothers Anthony Darwin (front right) and Mark Darwin (rear left) leave Teeside Crown Court after their mother Anne Darwin was jailed for six and a half years and their father John Darwin was jailed for six years and three months

Brothers Anthony Darwin (front right) and Mark Darwin (rear left) leave Teeside Crown Court after their mother Anne Darwin was jailed for six and a half years and their father John Darwin was jailed for six years and three months

This wouldn’t be possible using his fake identity of John Jones, which he had stolen from a dead baby.

Darwin walked into a police station in December 2007 and said he thought he was a ‘missing person’ but said he could not remember anything that had happened in the past five years. 

Mark received a call from Hartlepool police telling him that someone claiming to be their father had turned up and immediately began shaking. 

‘My whole world stopped,’ he said later. ‘My heart was pumping. I couldn’t believe it. I was overjoyed.’

Anthony was told when he was at his home with his wife, Louise, in Hampshire. 

‘It was as though everything was stopped in the room,’ said Mark.

‘I remember us looking at each other as he walked in and I said: ‘I didn’t believe it was you.” 

Anthony later told his mother of the moment he was reunited with his father: ‘When I first saw him, he called my name and we hugged. I just sat and stared at him for about ten minutes and didn’t say a word. I felt overwhelming joy that he was there.’ 

The Darwins also had to pretend to be astonished when they ‘reunited’ in front of their sons. 

Mrs Darwin said that her husband told her: ‘Hello Anne, is that really you, are you all right?’ 

The couple’s fraud was exposed when the photo of them in Panama was found online and came to the attention of police. 

In a statement in December 2007, after their parents’ lies had been uncovered, Mark and Anthony Darwin said: ‘How could our mam continue to let us believe our dad had died when he was very much in alive?

‘We have not spoken to either of our parents since our dad’s arrest and at this present time we want no further contact with them’.

Mrs Darwin said in a 2016 interview hat deceiving her sons was ‘unforgiveable’.

‘I was totally shocked by how dark and full of anger they were. To see that was absolutely horrendous. It jolted me. I could easily have buckled then and there,’ she said. 

However, she said she is now reconciled with both of her sons and has been on holidays with them and their families. 

Asked if her sons were in touch with their father, she said ‘that’s a private matter for them’.

In March, Mrs Darwin was tracked down by MailOnline to a village near Middlesbrough, where she lives quietly. 

The 70-year-old has reverted to her maiden name and lives where few of her neighbours are aware of her past.

Anne moved to the sheltered housing six months ago having previously lived in York where she had a part time £10 an hour job with the RSPCA.

Source: DailyMail

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