Police have confirmed they are investigating claims that back-from-the-dead canoeist John Darwin stole the identity of a dead baby to obtain a false passport.

A national newspaper reported that John Darwin, 57, scoured graveyards and records in local papers searching for a name he could use after he "died" in a canoeing accident in March 2002.

He then allegedly used the document alongside a black and white photo of himself sporting a long bushy beard to get a passport.

John Darwin has been charged with making an untrue statement to procure a passport and dishonestly obtaining 25,000 pounds.

The former teacher and prison officer, formerly of Seaton Carew, Hartlepool, has been remanded in custody.

Cleveland Police said they are investigating how Darwin came to have a passport in the name of John Jones.

John Jones was born on March 27, 1950 in Sunderland.

He died five weeks later from enteritis at the city's Hospital for Infectious Diseases.

A force spokeswoman said: "The police team investigating John and Anne Darwin is pursuing a line of inquiry in relation to the pseudonym 'John Jones' used by John Darwin."

Meanwhile, jokers in Seaton Carew have poked fun at the fact that John Darwin and his wife, Anne, had apparently purchased a property in Panama.

Overnight they erected a yellow sign on a road into the town reading: "Welcome to Seaton Canoe twinned with Panama".

The sign was later removed.

Anne Darwin sold the couple's house in Seaton Carew seven weeks ago and moved to Panama.

The couple is due to appear before Hartlepool Magistrates via videolink on Friday in separate hearings.