The emails that damned Anne Darwin: How Canoe Man’s co-conspirator wife’s crude love notes with ‘dead’ husband in Panama sank her claims she was acting on his orders
- The pair exchanged a series of emails between May and November 2007 that revealed their closeness
- In one, sent four days before she flew out to Panama, Anne bombarded her husband with typed out kisses
- In another, she told Darwin she was ‘missing’ him, just hours after he had left her to fly back to England
- 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 Panama flat
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
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
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
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
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 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’.
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 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
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)
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.’
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