How long did John Darwin get in prison and is he still with his wife?


After being presumed dead for years, John resurfaced (Picture: PA/PA Archive)

The release of The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe on ITV has sparked many questions about the curious case of John Darwin and Anne Darwin, retelling how the couple sensationally faked John’s death.

The couple, who are portrayed by Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan in the four-part series, were able to claim life insurance money to clear their enormous debt and somehow managed to convince everyone of their lies for years.

However, in the end, John was found out, after he and Anne made glaring blunders in their scheme that resulted in the police getting on their tail.

They both landed in prison for their crimes, with their sons publicly denouncing their parents after being tricked for years that their father had died.

So what happened to John leading up to his faked death, in the aftermath of him ‘going missing’, being caught and sent to jail?

When did John Darwin fake his own death?

In the early 2000s, the Darwins were experiencing severe debt, so much so that they were on the verge of having to declare bankruptcy.


John Darwin and Anne Darwin

A photo taken of John and Anne Darwin in Panama years after his disappearance was discovered online (Picture: Shutterstock/Rex Features)

In addition to John working as a prison officer and Anne as a doctor’s receptionist, they also ran bedsits and had bought two houses in Seaton Carew in 2000, which contributed to their financial troubles.

So, John decided to come up with an unbelievable course of action, concocting a plan to fake his death and have Anne claim the life insurance money.

They enacted his plot in March 2002, when he was seen paddling out to sea in his famous canoe.

The wreckage of the boat was found the next day after an expansive search, leading to him being presumed dead.

Where did John Darwin live?

One of the most bizarre parts of the case – and there are many to choose from – is that John was right under the police force’s nose years before he was discovered.


Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan as John Darwin and Anne Darwin in The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe

Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan play the couple, who both served prison sentences in real life (Picture: PA/ITV)

After feigning his demise, he moved into the property next door to his house with Anne, as they had bought the conjoining house as part of their bedsit business.

During an appearance on This Morning on Tuesday April 19, journalist David Leigh – who broke the story about John’s faked death – recollected jokingly asking Anne if John had been hiding in the garden shed, to which she replied that while he was ‘close’, he was slightly off the mark… as he had been next door.

John eventually convinced Anne to move with him to Panama, as she informed her sons (who believed their father was dead) that she wanted to make a fresh start abroad.

However, while trying to plan the launch of a new business in the region, John found out that in accordance with Panama’s visa laws, he would need to have his identity verified by police in the UK.

How did John Darwin get caught?

There were several contributing factors to John being caught, one of them being that when he and Anne were in Panama, they had their photo taken at a property agent’s office.

The picture – taken in 2006, four years after John’s supposed death – was uploaded onto the internet, which eventually made its way into the newspapers.


Monica Dolan as Anne Darwin,Eddie Marsan as John Darwin and Jorge Albuquerque as Mario Vilar, in the ITV drama, The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe

The actors’ recreation of the property agent office photo was uncanny (Picture: PA/ITV)

Having duped the authorities for years, in 2007, John’s visa issue in Panama resulted in him making the game-changing decision to return to the UK and go to the police to identify himself, claiming that he had amnesia.

The police were already investigating Anne at that time, as some questioned whether her actions contradicted the fact that she was supposed to be a grieving widow, while a colleague of hers had also become suspicious of her after hearing a phone conversation she had with John.

John was arrested at one of his son’s houses in Basingstoke, while Anne was arrested at Manchester Airport upon her return to the UK from Panama.

How long did John Darwin get in prison?

In July 2008, both John and Anne were convicted of fraud.


Eddie Marsan as John Darwin in The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe

Eddie delivers a convincing performance as the scheming mastermind behind the plan (Picture: PA/ITV)

John, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to six years and three months in prison, while Anne, who stuck to a not guilty plea, was sentenced to six years and six months behind bars.

What’s more, Anne was placed in jail at HM Prison Low Newton, where serial killer Rose West has been since 1995.

John was released on probation in January 2011, while Anne was released two months later.

Is John Darwin still with his wife?

Having been married since 1973, the unravelling of the faking of John’s death also saw the Darwins get divorced.

John remarried in 2015 to Mercy Mae Darwin, who is 23 years his junior.

They live in Manila in the Philippines, where they work together on a market stall.

Anne, meanwhile, is retired and living in the north of England, remaining in close contact with her two sons and four grandchildren.

The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe returns tonight at 9pm on ITV and is available to watch on ITV Hub.

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