From: Reuters
Published December 8, 2007 02:30 PM

"Returned-from-dead" canoeist charged

LONDON (Reuters) - A man who "returned from the dead" after apparently being lost at sea in a canoeing accident five years ago was charged by police on Saturday with obtaining money by deception and making a false declaration to get a passport.

The charges come after a week of revelations that began with John Darwin, 57, walking into a London police station claiming amnesia and ended with his wife Anne telling newspapers she had hidden him at the family home during the missing years.

Anne Darwin described how her husband had avoided discovery by using a small passage to an apartment in an adjoining house owned by the couple.

"For three years, while virtually everyone close to us believed John was missing presumed dead, he was actually at home with me," Anne Darwin, who recently left Britain for central America, told the Daily Mirror.

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"We were living as man and wife, although it was far from a conventional life," she added.

"There were a few hairy moments and I lived in fear of being found out," she told the Daily Mail in another interview.

On Saturday police urged her to make contact with them as soon as possible but said they did not know when she intended to return to Britain.

Newspaper reports said Darwin's life insurance and work benefits had been paid to his wife.

LIVING A LIE

Anne Darwin spoke to the Daily Mail in Miami where she had traveled from Panama, apparently heading to Britain after telling reporters she had been "living a lie" and feared her children would never forgive her.

She told the Daily Mirror her husband had partly lived with her in the family home but, if visitors called, had to flee through the passage hidden by a wardrobe with a false back to the neighboring apartment.

Former prison officer Darwin vanished in March 2002 from his home, but according to his wife, turned up at their house a year later.

"I didn't even recognize him at first," she told the Mirror. "He was an absolute mess, all disheveled. I was relieved he was alive, of course, but I was also very angry with him."

She said the couple decided to move to Panama but Darwin, who was missing their sons Anthony and Mark, invented a plan to "return from the dead" to see his sons.

In 2002, Anne Darwin reported her husband missing, saying she feared he had suffered an accident while canoeing in the North Sea near their home in Hartlepool, northeast England.

A few weeks later the shattered remains of his red kayak were discovered. In 2003, following a police inquiry, a coroner declared him dead.

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