THE FRAUDGER John Darwin was spotted shopping in the Philippines just days before a real-life drama aired his crimes.
The notorious criminal conspired with his wife Anne to swindle nearly £700,000 out of life insurance and pensions by faking his death in the North Sea in a canoe in 2002.
Darwin, 71, shopped at a store called WILCON in Antipolo, Philliipines, wearing a face mask and bucket hat.
The scammer reportedly refused to answer any questions when he was approached by reporters and rushed into his £25,000 SUV.
It is also understood that former teacher and prison officer Darwin seeks to profit from his crimes by writing a tell-all book.
Mercy, Darwin’s second wife, 48, told the Mirror: “The book is about his life, but it’s not finished yet. You must wait. »
Darwin previously wrote an autobiography, The Canoe Man: Panama and Back, which he wrote while serving three years and six months in prison.
ITV has turned her story into a major drama, The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, which is set to hit UK screens on April 14.
The show, starring Eddie Marsan as Darwin, is said to have caused problems with Darwin’s second wife who is angry that it was done without his permission.
A friend said: “John and Mercy are really happy together. He feels like he’s been given a second chance at life and he grabs it with both hands.
The couple reportedly met online in 2015, with another friend adding: “I always thought John was a rich guy. He still seems healthy.
Darwin and his first wife Anne, 70, committed the fraud in 2002 after running up huge debts under failed buy-to-let schemes.
The couple decided that £670,000 of insurance and pension money was the solution to their problems, and so planned John’s death.
On March 21, John paddled out to sea at Seaton Carew in County Durham in a red kayak and was not seen coming ashore.
His wife Anne reported him missing, with a police plane with heat search equipment, five RNLI lifeboats, two coastguard teams and an RAF helicopter all searching for John.
But they couldn’t find the missing man, as he was safe in a tent further along the coast.
The next day, his dinghy was found wrecked and Anne was tasked with breaking the news to their sons, Anthony, 42, and Mark, 45, that he was dead.
She later admitted that lying to her sons was “something I will regret for the rest of my time”.
Ann has also convincingly lied to the general public, telling the local newspaper, “All I want to do is bury his body. It would allow me to move forward.
“It’s hard to grieve without ending things, but as things stand I’m in limbo. »
Darwin then moved to a studio apartment next to the family home, making a door behind a cupboard in Anne’s bedroom and growing a bushy beard as a disguise for city trips.
In April 2003 a coroner pronounced John dead and in August Anne began to receive huge sums.
There was pension and life insurance worth £91,000 and the mortgage protection policy of £137,000.
In 2006, the couple traveled to Panama to start a new life with their ill-gotten gains, but were arrested after returning home to obtain documents allowing the move.
But he gave his real name, claiming he suffered from amnesia, and his survival was hailed as a miracle.
Police began investigating the couple after a photo of the couple smiling alongside a real estate agent in Panama was published in December 2007.
John pleaded guilty to seven counts of obtaining money by deception and Anne was found guilty of similar offenses after going on trial.
The two Darwins were sentenced to just over six years in prison for their crimes and were ordered to repay £679,073.
The couple had £592,000 in assets – £501,641 had been repaid in 2012 as Anne divorced her husband after 38 years of marriage.
She has since moved to a village near Middlesbrough, using her maiden name in an attempt to rebuild her life.
The staggering scam is now being told in a four-part ITV series called ‘The Thief, His Wife and a Canoe’ and stars Eddie Marsan as John while BAFTA-winning Monica Dolan takes on the role. Anne’s role.
The drama will put a new spin on fake death, with Anne portrayed as someone who was forced to go along with her narcissistic husband’s plan.
The series creators say it will show her as a bullied wife who is emotionally blackmailed into participating in the scam and is devastated after her sons disown him.
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Canoe man John Darwin was spotted shopping in the Philippines as new ITV drama is filmed on his fake death con man – Reuters News in France and abroad