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Twenty years on from his attempt at faking his own death, John Darwin’s colleagues have revealed that he was almost caught red-handed while gardening outside his home.

Former colleague Dave Smith told the Mirror that he spotted Darwin outside his home in Seaton Carew, County Durham, just 14 months into his five-year scam.

Smith told the Mirror: ‘He had a long shaggy beard and looked like a caveman, but I knew it was him.’ 

Former colleague Dave Smith told the Mirror that he spotted Darwin (left) outside his home in Seaton Carew, County Durham, just 14 months into his five-year scam

The saga is now being dramatised by ITV in The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, which is currently airing. Pictured: Eddie Marsan as Darwin and Monica Dolan as his wife

The saga is now being dramatised by ITV in The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, which is currently airing. Pictured: Eddie Marsan as Darwin and Monica Dolan as his wife

The saga is now being dramatised by ITV in The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, which is currently airing. Pictured: Eddie Marsan as Darwin and Monica Dolan as his wife

The scammer was brazen as he thought he could not be recognised with a hat and beard but it was one of three sightings of Darwin by colleagues after his ‘death’.

After his disappearance in March 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. 

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 and his ex-wife getting a job with the RSPCA. Above: Darwin with his second wife  Mercy Mae, 48

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 and his ex-wife getting a job with the RSPCA. Above: Darwin with his second wife  Mercy Mae, 48

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 and his ex-wife getting a job with the RSPCA. Above: Darwin with his second wife  Mercy Mae, 48 

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 next door that was accessed through a passageway hidden behind the door of a fake cupboard.

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.

The couple even lied to their own children as they attempted to claim pension, benefits and insurance to clear nearly £700,000 before they were caught.

Anne (pictured near Middlesbrough)

Anne (pictured near Middlesbrough)

Darwin with his second wife on their wedding day

Darwin with his second wife on their wedding day

After her release from prison, Anne Darwin (pictured left this week) moved to a village near York and was able to get a job with the RSCPA thanks to qualifications she gained in prison. Right: Darwin with his second wife on their wedding day

After spending five years laying low, John and Anne were rumbled after John pretended to have amnesia when turning himself in at a London police station – only for a photo of him and Anne in Panama to emerge.

In 2008, after the scandal made national headlines, John was found guilty on deception charges and jailed for six years and three months.

Anne 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 John citing ‘unreasonable  behaviour’ as a reason for the split.

John moved to Manila and remarried after the divorce to Filipino woman Mercy Mae Avila Darwin, 48.

The couple made headlines earlier this year when Ms Darwin said her husband, who is now 71, was ‘on his way’ to fight in Ukraine and has ‘good life insurance’ in case it all goes wrong.

After her release from prison, Anne Darwin moved to a village near York.

She works for the RSPCA after getting IT and business qualifications while in prison. 

She was also able to reconcile with her two sons – after one had branded her a ‘hideous, lying b***h’ – and has been on holidays with them.

Source: Daily Mail

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