Canoe man John Darwin played his own son in a computer game while he was supposed to be dead


Exclusive: Canoe man John Darwin’s wife Anne made £500,000 in the insurance fraud based on John’s faked ‘death’ while her husband was in hiding, playing computer games against his own son

Canoe man John Darwin played against his son in computer game when he was supposed to be dead

Canoe man John Darwin was addicted to fake identities during five years as a ‘dead’ man – and used one to play his own sons in a computer game.

The Mirror has today told of the cruel deception of Anthony, 34, and Mark Darwin, 37, by their parents.

They both thought he was dead after Darwin went ‘missing’ at sea in March, 2002, an unthinkable lie perpetuated by their mother Anne.

She made £500,000 in the insurance fraud based on John’s faked ‘death’ while her husband was in hiding, playing computer games.

Incredibly, he went up against his own sons online.

In his book ‘The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe’, former Mirror man David Leigh recalls how Darwin asks his wife: “You’ll never guess who I’ve been playing?’

John Darwin’s disguised photograph when he used the false identity of John Jones



Canoe man John Darwin faked his own death


Humphrey Nemar)

“Anne looked at John quizzically. Theboys! But don’t worry; they have no idea it’s me!’”

Anne was “beyond horrified.”

David goes on: “Two years after his ‘death’ and addicted to playing online fantasy games, John has – astonishingly – used his character to befriend and pit his wits against his sons.

“They are both active players of the online game Asheron’s Call, a game fighting virtual 3D monsters in an exotic, far-off land.

“Of course, the lads have no idea who Seaton the druid really is.”

Darwin knew his sons’ online identities from playing under a different name before he ‘died’.

He admits to Anne that “maybe it’s a little cruel”. But he finds it hard to break all ties and so, despite telling Anne he will stop, he “carries on regardless.”

Eddie Marsan as John Darwin



Darwin’s ‘addiction’ to fake identities – present long before he disappeared – was the key to the success of the scam, according to David’s book which inspired the ITV series, seen by millions this week.

The fraudster also stole the idea of ​​obtaining a fake passport from the Frederick Forsyth classic ‘The Day of the Jackal’. Shortly after his disappearance, he trawled a graveyard to find the death of a baby called John Jones.

Darwin took details from the headstone to obtain a copy of his birth certificate. He then applied for a passport. I have used it to travel the world, including Europe, America and finally Panama.

When first reported missing, he became ‘Johnny Allen’ at a Lakes B&B, taken from a character on EastEnders.

Just like Reggie Perrin, I needed a disguise. So he let his facial hair grow into a shaggy beard, faked a limp and bought a walking stick. He also bought an ‘Arthur Daley-style’ sheepskin coat and a tweed flat cap in Oxfam.

After he was spotted by a former colleague, he used another fake identity, Karl Fenwick. David writes that it was possibly inspired by Fenwicks, the dept store in Newcastle, or ‘Mr Fenwick, who closes his shop after refusing to serve furs to Cruella de Vil and is never seen again’.

“With John, it’s hard to know,” adds David. Darwin was also ‘Tom’

the odd job man when he first ventured out after his death.

“He had been playing Asheron’s Call for years. After staging his death, it became an addiction. I have played against thousands of fellow gamers pretending to be people they weren’t,” David writes.

“They had fake names, money to buy and sell property, and the power to cast spells on opponents.

“Characters died – but could come back to life. Sound familiar?

“John’s virtual reality world… the perfect training for what was to follow in real life.”

  • ‘The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe’, by David Leigh with Tony Hutchinson, is on sale now, published by Hodder.

Read More

Read More

Related Posts

George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *