Police Charge 'Dead' Briton With Fraud
Wife Recounts Hidden Life
Sunday, December 9, 2007; Page A25
LONDON, Dec. 8 -- British police filed fraud charges Saturday against a man who was declared dead after he disappeared on a canoeing trip in 2002 but last week walked into a police station claiming amnesia.
Police in Cleveland, in northern England, charged John Darwin, 57, with making false statements to obtain a passport and using deception to make money transfers. Police said that Darwin would be held until a court appearance Monday and that they wanted to interview his wife, Anne, 55, who recently moved to Panama.
Police provided no other details of Darwin's five-year odyssey, but his wife laid out an extraordinary tale in a lengthy interview published Saturday in two British newspapers, the Mirror and the Daily Mail. The newspapers said Anne Darwin spoke to a reporter in Miami during a stopover on her return trip to Britain.
According to her account, Darwin began planning to fake his death in early 2002 because he believed it was the only way the couple could escape growing debts related to their apartment rental business.
She said she doubted he would go through with the plan and initially believed he had died when he disappeared in March 2002. But she said he returned to their family home in northern England in February 2003, looking dirty, thin and "disheveled."
For the next three years, she told the newspapers, Darwin lived with her in their family home, spending most of his time in a small room in an apartment building they owned next door. She said his secret room was connected to their bedroom by a passageway that was knocked into the wall and hidden behind a large wardrobe.
"I was always on eggshells when friends and family came to stay in case someone wandered into John's room and saw him," she said, adding that he would often take walks disguised in a woolly hat and faking a limp.