The wife of the “back from the dead” canoeist John Darwin last night confessed that she knew her husband was alive after being confronted with a recent photograph of the pair together in Panama.
Anne Darwin, who had previously insisted she believed her husband died five years ago, said she would return home to Britain to “face the music” after confirming the authenticity of the photograph.
Starting to cry, Anne Darwin said, “My sons are never going to forgive me. They are going to hate me. It looks as though I am going to be left without a husband, a home or a family now.”
Citing friends and relatives, her two sons believed their father was dead, The Daily Telegraph reported.
However, one of the sons left his job as a software engineer last Friday and the other son reportedly left his job in August, the newspaper reported.
It was not clear if the departures had anything to do with their father.
Confronted with the picture, which showed her smiling alongside her husband in Panama, she told the Daily Mail, “Well, I guess that picture answers a lot of questions. Yes, that’s my husband.”
After spending several hours yesterday in her lawyer’s office in the fashionable El Cangrejo district of Panama City, she told the newspaper, “I don’t want to live my life as a fugitive.”
John Darwin, who has been arrested on suspicion of fraud, was presumed dead in a canoeing accident in the North Sea five years ago until he walked into a police station on Saturday, claiming that he had lost his memory.
His extraordinary reappearance came just six weeks after Anne Darwin suddenly sold the family home in Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, and left Britain to start a new life in Panama. She has previously admitted claiming hundreds of thousands of pounds in life insurance but has acknowledged that she may have to pay it back.
Doubt was cast on the couple’s story when the photograph emerged showing them with an estate agent in Panama City.
Last night, admitting that she had known her husband was alive, Anne Darwin said that they had rented a villa for a brief vacation from the estate agent in the picture.
She claimed she had initially believed her husband died in a 2002 canoeing accident. She would not specify how she found out that he had not died, except to say that “it was years later."
“Do I still love John? Yes, I do and it’s probably that that’s got me in this situation. When you love someone, all you want to do is protect them.”
Anne Darwin insisted her sons, Mark and Anthony, knew nothing about the situation and believed their father was dead.
“My family will be absolutely devastated by this. My sons knew nothing," she said. "They thought they had just got their dad back and now he’s been whisked away.Now they are going to hate me.”
The 55-year-old former doctor's receptionist told The Daily Telegraph she wants to get out of Panama and the "whole situation is a total mess."
"I want to go back but I can't," she told the newspaper. "I'm terrified of what's going to happen to me. What will people say about me back home?"
Earlier, Anne Darwin was confronted with the same questions from The Times but did not answer because it is believed that she is under contract to other publications.
In overheard snatches of conversation in the lawyer’s office, Darwin said: “I want to go back but I can’t. I have been waiting for my visa and all my furniture is in storage.”
Dressed in a pink polo shirt, beige slacks and sandals, with several gold rings on her wedding finger, she added: “I’m really worried what they are going to write about me. I don’t want the storage facility publicised.”
At that point, it was time for some questions to be answered but . Darwin was not interested.
Her body language changed dramatically when asked to explain how it was that only a day earlier she had expressed her joy at discovering that her husband John was not dead after all, even as a photograph believed to have been taken last year of the happy couple together in Panama emerged on a Panamanian property Web site.
“I am not going to talk to you, please go away,” she repeated while calling for security and retreating behind a glass door.
Her lawyer then asked The Times to leave. “I am not at liberty to speak to you. If she’s speaking or not speaking to reporters it’s none of my business,” Ms Gray, who specialises in property purchase for foreigners and immigration issues, said. “There is absolutely no mystery to this, and there is the door.” She gestured to the exit in response to a question about the two-bedroom apartment in a middle-class residential district of Panama City which Mrs. Darwin allegedly bought recently.
But it was the flat’s web of financial arrangements, traced through the city’s public register office, which had led us to Gray’s office and the uncommunicative Mrs. Darwin.
The apartment is registered to the ownership of a company called Jaguar Properties Corporation SA, which legal experts contacted yesterday suggested could be a vehicle for disguising the true ownership of an asset. It is a form of ownership popular with foreign investors.
“My involvement with Mrs. Darwin has been to do with immigration,” Gray said. “I have an attorney-client relationship with her which I cannot breach.” But pressed about the apartment, she added, “She might be renting it. I have set up and sold I don’t know how many companies. I do a lot of property transactions.”
Asked if she was now considering whether or not to end her relationship with Mrs. Darwin she said, “Not without finding her adequate legal representation” – an indication that Mrs. Darwin’s involvement in her husband’s affairs may soon come under scrutiny for criminal investigation.
Two police officers later turned up at the office and disappeared inside.
The mystery surrounding Darwin’s recent life in Panama persists.
Sara Espino, a neighbor in the apartment block said that Darwin had not been seen there in weeks. The flat she has allegedly bought was valued by neighbours at between $70,000 and $80,000 dollars.
The only tangible evidence of her new life emerged back in England in the form of postcards to friends.
She sent one this summer to her ex-neighbour Bill Rodriguez, showing a gold altar in the Church of San José in Panama City. She wrote: “Hope you enjoyed your cruise. I am having an absolutely wonderful time. Weather and food are excellent. Anne.”
Mr Rodriguez said, “I’ve always thought of Anne as a wonderful person. She’s a devout Christian with a good heart and a good soul and I’m still convinced that she was genuinely shattered when her husband went missing.
“I saw her crying on several occasions and my wife spent hours comforting her in the days and weeks after it happened. She was a woman in mourning. If not, she was one of the greatest actresses in the world.”