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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 December 2007, 12:07 GMT
Canoeist 'lived at family home'
The former home of John Darwin in Seaton Carew
Anne Darwin said her husband hid in another part of the house
The wife of a man presumed drowned in a 2002 canoe accident has said he lived in the family home for three years after being declared dead.

Anne Darwin said her husband hid in a bedsit in a house they owned next door when family or friends visited to prevent them discovering the truth.

John Darwin, 57, vanished from the Hartlepool area in March 2002.

He walked into a police station last week claiming amnesia and is now being questioned on suspicion of fraud.

Cleveland Police have been granted an extra 36 hours to question him and may apply for a further extension if necessary.

Police also want to speak to Mrs Darwin, 55, who sold the family home in Seaton Carew and moved to Panama six weeks ago.

She is thought to be in Miami but expected to return to the UK this weekend.

'Hid in bedsit'

Mrs Darwin told reporters her husband plotted his Reggie Perrin-style disappearance to escape debts "in the tens of thousands".

John Darwin
The wreckage of John Darwin's canoe was found in March 2002

"John said there was only one way out of the situation, and that was to fake his death. I pleaded with him not to do it, I said it was the wrong thing to do," she said.

Mrs Darwin maintains she did not know he had gone ahead with the scam until he turned up on her doorstep in Seaton Carew 11 months after going missing, looking like he had been "living rough".

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

They were tortured. And yes, it was hard to keep up the front. I so wanted to tell them but I was in too deep
Anne Darwin

"He lived at the house with me for three years. We lived as man and wife," she added.

Mr Darwin was declared dead by a coroner in 2003.

Mrs Darwin has previously said she claimed on his life insurance "in good faith" but has now told reporters she knew he was alive before the pay out.

'Missed sons'

She said he lived with her in the main family home most of the time and hid in a small bedsit in a house they owned next door when guests or their two sons, Anthony and Mark, visited.

John Darwin at Hartlepool Magistrates' Court

"They were tortured. And yes, it was hard to keep up the front. I so wanted to tell them but I was in too deep, how could I possibly explain to them that I'd known their father was alive?" she told journalists.

Both sons have said they want nothing more to do with their mother or father.

They insist they did not know their father was alive and say they are furious at being made the victims of what they describe as a "large scam".

Mr and Mrs Darwin later bought an apartment in Panama and she moved there seven weeks ago after selling up in England. But he had to come back because he could not remain without a visa and missed their sons, according to reports.

Police say they have received calls from "all over the world" after appealing for information about Mr Darwin.

Anne Darwin tells a newspaper how she hid her husband

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