Wife: Canoeist Faked Own Death to Clear Debts

The wife of back-from-the-dead canoeist John Darwin says her husband was living in their family home for three years after he was declared dead.

Anne Darwin said that when their sons or relatives visited, her husband hid in a bedset in a house they owned next door.

The bedset was connected to her bedroom via a narrow, coffin-shaped passage, hidden by a wardrobe with a false back.

"For three years, while virtually everyone close to us believed John was missing presumed dead, he was actually at home with me," she said.

Anne Darwin, 55, is expected to be arrested when she returns to Britain. It is thought she is currently in Miami

She told reporters her husband had talked about faking his own death to escape debts.

But Anne Darwin insisted she did not know he had gone ahead with the scam until he turned up on her doorstep 11 months after he went missing.

She claimed he threatened to say she was involved from the start if she reported him to the authorities.

"We had a lot of debt, in the tens of thousands. He said there was only one way out of the situation and that was to fake his death," she said.

"I said it was the wrong thing to do and could not go along with it but he badgered away."

John Darwin is in police custody after he was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of fraud.

He disappeared from the couple's home in Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, in March 2002, and was presumed drowned after his wrecked canoe was found.

The 57-year-old former prison officer walked into a London police station last Saturday.

The Press Complaints Commission said it had received no calls from the public about the widespread media coverage of the case.

A spokesman said the commission understood Anne Darwin had received no direct payment from any newspaper for her story.

The PCC code states people likely to be a witness in a criminal trial should be not be paid for stories, and nor should confessed or convicted criminals.