While Anne Darwin was entirely devoted to her husband, John Darwin was a narcissistic cheater.
Anne deposited her then-husband’s £250,000 life insurance policy after cashing it because he faked his own death back in 2002 by pretending he had died while paddling out to sea in his canoe.
For years the couple used their ill-gotten money to travel around the world in a bid to start a new life, eventually buying a £200,000 tropical estate in a village in Panama in May 2007.
However, John sensationally returned to the UK claiming he had amnesia after a change in the visa laws, then an incriminating image emerged of the pair in an estate agents in Panama.
During their court case in 2008, the picture of their happy marriage was destroyed when Anne revealed her husband had previously cheated on her.
But the 71-year-old was also trying to start affairs with other women while he was pretending to be dead, Mirror Online reports.
Darwin admitting he’d had an affair just after they married and being caught having another when their son Anthony was 15-years-old.
“I was angry, heartbroken. The last thing I wanted was to tear the family apart,” said Anne. “We agreed to make a fresh start, where we’d both make more of an effort and try to make things work.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to trust him again.”
During the trial, Anne told the jury she had no sexual relations with anyone before they were married and none with anyone else since.
But she confessed she considered leaving John after he cheated on her, saying: “I was quite obviously upset when I found out about the relationship.
“I did consider leaving him, but I just couldn’t see a life without him. I didn’t know how I would cope on my own so I forgave him.”
After she forgave him, David Waters QC, defending, asked: “Did you still love him?”
She replied simply: “Yes.”
While in hiding, John spent his time flirting with women online while playing computer games and would even deny the existence of his own sons, pretending he was a widower with no children.
He also lied to his wife by saying that he was looking to start a new life for them in the US and one online friend, Maria, had offered to let him stay in New York should he ever visit.
Darwin flew out and spent two weeks with her, as revealed in a new book, The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, by former Mirror journalist David Leigh.
According to David, Darwin thought it all “quite exciting” and claimed Maria was desperate to marry him, having neglected to mention he already had a wife. “Remove what he got up to is anyone’s guess,” said the author.
While there, Darwin was in constant touch with another online friend, Kelly Steel, a “lonely and bored” 41-year-old mother-of-three from Kansas who he first chatted to in 2003 while playing fantasy game EverQuest.
Using the alias John Jones, Darwin said he was a former teacher and prison officer, also claiming his wife was dead and he’d never had children.
In May 2004, without telling Anne, Darwin cashed in £30,000 of Premium Bonds and wired Kelly $50,000 from his John Jones bank account to open an equestrian center and they could split the profits.
“For a man who had always been so meticulous in his affairs, to entrust such a large sum on money to a woman he barely knew and had never met defies belief,” said David. “Maybe he was n’t thinking with his brain about him.”
The alarm bells only sounded when he discovered the money had gone into a joint account held by Kelly and her ex-husband.
But he didn’t allow the reality of suspicion to cloud the dream and chatted to Kelly using headphones so Anne would not hear but she heard him giggling like a pathetic schoolboy.
When he finally told Anne about the investment, she was furious and incredulous but was getting to the point of being past caring.
John got his own nasty surprise when he flew out to Kansas and discovered Kelly looked very different in the flesh – and the disappointed feeling was mutual.
“He was such a weird kind of guy, he instantly creeped me out and it made me uncomfortable to be around him,” Kelly later revealed. “He is the creepiest, oddest and most frightening man I have met.
“While we were there, he began asking me about the widows or single women in the town, and could I help him find a new wife, because that would help him get a visa and to stay in the US.”
John demanded his money back but he was forced to write off £30,000 of his ill-gotten gains, while Anne recalled: “Part of me wished he had just gone, disappeared for good.”
John was sentenced to six years and three months in prison for admitting deception by faking his own death, while Anne received six-and-a-half years behind bars for fraud.
Their last communication was in prison when John tried to rekindle their relationship, but Anne finally plucked up the courage to end things.
It is understood John’s letters to his pen pal Lorraine Forbes, 43, begging her for sex, were the final straw for Anne.
But he didn’t take the news well and reportedly sent Anne a photograph of herself which had a copyright brand on it, seemingly implying she was his property.
When Anne refused to get back with John, he was actually the one who divorced her on the grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour’.
He was released in 2011 after serving half his sentence, while Anne got out of prison two months later.
Two years after being released, John broke the terms of his parole in to see a young Ukrainian woman he had met on a foreign brides website for women seeking a rich husband.
He told her that hundreds of women wanted to meet him and that he received 240 messages from admirers in one day, but she never wanted to see him again after their first date.
In 2015, John married Mercidita, otherwise known as Mercy, who is 23 years his junior in her native home of the Philippines.
She wrote a gushing message to her friends on Facebook shortly after the wedding to announce she was “in love” with the pensioner.
Mercy, whose three children from a previous relationship are now living with a cousin, said: “I love you so much sweetheart, your always my baby. Falling in love is easy, but staying in love is very special.”
Now living with her and living off her money and his UK state pension of around £134 a week, John helps flog his market trader wife’s £4.35 a time undies and T-shirts in a giant indoor market.
In 2016, it was reported that John was forced to spend most of his time in the cramped room he called home because of his allergies.
“It is the dust and dirt – he is allergic to it,” his then landlady Daisy Lavapiez told the Sunday Mirror.
“He is nearly always upstairs in his room because of the air quality here, unless he is helping Mercy at the market. I feel sorry for him sometimes as he does not have a lot of friends.”
*The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe is on ITV at 9pm from Easter Sunday to Wednesday 20th April*
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