Anne Darwin looks worlds away today compared to the miserable figure the world saw after the fake canoe death scam was exposed.
Anne was easy to recognize as she was marched into court with her bright white bob, trademark glasses and dowdy cardigan as she was sentenced for fraud.
The former doctors’ receptionist received a six and a half year sentence for her part in her husband’s plot to fake his death, and even received a longer sentence than husband John who was handed six years.
The scandal all started in 2002 when Anne lied to the police, and even her own sons, as she played the part of the grieving widow after her husband’s “death” in a tragic canoe accident out at sea.
The twist was that Anne knew he was still alive and was secretly living next door to the family and sharing her bed as she collected his £250,000 life insurance policy, writes the Mirror.
The former couple used their fraudulent funds to fly around the world in a bid to start a new life, eventually purchasing a £200,000 tropical estate in a village in Panama in 2007.
However, a change in Panama’s visa laws meant John couldn’t stay and sensationally returned to the UK.
He walked straight into a police station, stated his actual name, then tried to claim he had been suffering from amnesia for five years.
The pair were rumbled when a photo emerged of them in an estate agents during the time John was supposedly missing – as well as sordid emails between him and Anne.
Anne was released from prison in 2011 and used the qualifications she gained there as she found a job with the RSPCA and moved to a village outside of York.
The 70-year-old had a glamorous makeover, changing her hair color and a trendier set of specs.
She now lives a quiet life in a small one-bedroom bungalow in a village in North Yorkshire – where few of her neighbors know her identity.
Anne has taken up hiking to clear her head and embarks on walks around the North Yorkshire Moors and Cleveland Hills.
According to The Daily Mail, she has reverted to her maiden name and would not commented when asked about the new ITV drama.
One neighbor told them: “We simply know her as Anne. She is very quiet but friendly. She has never mentioned what she did, but then why should she.
“I do remember the whole canoe story. It’s quite amusing that she is living here, but I suppose it was a long time ago and she is just getting on with her life.”
Anne has given her own account of the scandal in her book, Out Of My Depth, which was labeled the “true story” of Anne’s journey from an ordinary housewife to “Canoe Widow, Panama and prison.”
She explained that she wrote the book to help herself and as a love letter to her children, in a bid to make them understand why she went along with the nasty scheme – and donated the proceeds to charity.
Anne had been publicly disowned by her sons, Mark and Anthony, who were furious at both their parents’ deception and said they didn’t wish to see them ever again.
“After the truth came out that we’d been living in Panama together, I continually wrote to Mark and Anthony to say, ‘I am so sorry. I really do love you’,” Anne explained to The Guardian.
“But they refused to see or talk to me. The first time I set eyes on them [afterwards] was at my trial when Mark was the first to testify against me. After he left the witness box, he only lifted his eyes floatingly to meet mine. I was totally shocked by how dark and full of anger they were. To see that was absolutely horrendous.”
After nine long years of building bridges, Anne has now been forgiven by her son Mark and started to have a relationship with Anthony.
Mark said: “It was a cruel act of betrayal that no parent should ever inflict on their children – the pain and suffering it caused me and my brother is indescribable. The horror of the discovery, my sheer fury and what they put me though, is something that will taint my life forever.”
He added: “I have forgiven her, to some degree, but I will never understand, nor forget.”
It’s a very different story for John, who now lives in the Philippines with his new wife Mercy, who is 23 years his junior.
He now flogs his market trader wife’s £4.35 a time undies and T-shirts in a giant indoor market and reportedly still gets a UK state pension of around £134 a week.
While Anne is still believed to be single and enjoying spending time with her four grandchildren.
Get the latest celebrity gossip and telly news sent straight to your inbox. Sign up to our weekly Showbiz newsletter here.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.