Where is John Darwin canoe man now? From divorcing Anne to his new wife he met online and Philippines move


‘Canoe man’ John Darwin is under the primetime spotlight once more tonight for the second episode of the hugely anticipated ITV drama The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe. It is based on one of the most talked about scandals of all time.

The story of John and Anne Darwin and how they faked John’s death to escape their debt is something that has become the stuff of legend. Multiple dramatizations of their plot to fake John’s death in a canoe accident in 2002 have been made, and the first episode in the new four-part miniseries from ITV aired last night on Sunday, April, 17.

It is no surprise the story is told over and over due to the stranger-than-fiction nature of the plot and the seemingly normal people behind it. If you aren’t familiar with the scandal, you’d be forgiven for thinking the plot was fictional.

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The couple, from Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, were jailed at Teesside Crown Court in 2008 for the swindle, which deceived the police, a coroner, financial institutions and even their own sons Mark and Anthony.



The infamous photo of Anne and John Darwin in Panama which led the world to realize that John was in fact not dead

The Darwins, who were both released from prison in 2011, hatched the scam when they faced losing their property portfolio. Former prison officer John paddled into the sea off Seaton Carew in a homemade canoe and disappeared in March 2002, leaving his wife to raise the alarm, prompting a huge search operation.

The search spanned a huge stretch of coastline, but, with efforts coming to no avail, it was called off and John was presumed dead. However, his wife of him knew otherwise and John later came home and lived for a number of years in secret in a bedsit the couple owned next door to the family home, as they conjured up a fraudulent scam to claim insurance, pensions and benefits.

John would stay holed up in the top flat and at night he would creep into the family home via a secret doorway hidden behind a wardrobe. Under the assumed identity John Jones, taken from a local child who died in infancy, Darwin traveled around the world planning a new life for himself and his wife while they collected huge pay-outs from the insurance companies.

The couple moved to Panama, where they bought a flat and land which they hoped to transform into a canoeing center focusing on eco-tourism.



Eddie Marsan will be starring as the narcissistic John and Monica Dolan playing his partner Anne in the new ITV drama

Then Darwin flew back to the UK and handed himself into a central London police station in November 2007, claiming he was suffering from amnesia and didn’t know where he had been for the past five years.

Mrs Darwin, a former doctor’s receptionist, was tracked down in Panama and pretended to be shocked at the back-from-the-dead miracle. However, the story collapsed when a photograph was found on social media showing the smiling couple posing in a Panama estate agents’ office.

John was jailed for six years and three months after admitting eight deception charges, wife Anne was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in jail for fraud and money-laundering.

Upon release, the two went their separate ways, but where is John Darwin the ‘canoe man’ now?

Where is John Darwin now?



John Darwin after shopping at Wilcon in Antipolo
John Darwin after shopping at Wilcon in Antipolo

Following their respective prison stints, John and Anne parted ways and later divorced. John moved away and set up a new life in the Philippines and has since remarried. His new wife of him, who is 23 years his junior, is called Mercy Mae and the pair met online.

John, who is now 71, was recently spotted shopping nearby his new home. A friend said: “John and Mercy are really happy together. He feels like he’s been given a second chance at life and he’s grabbing it with both hands.”

While an associate of Mercy’s said: “I have always believed John to be a rich guy. He still seems in good health.”

It is reported that his now wife Mercy is angry that The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe was made for ITV without John’s permission. It is not known whether John repaired his relationship with his sons, Mark and Anthony.

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George Holan

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

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