John Darwin, Canoe man, tracked down the appropriately named ‘Wilcon’ store in Philippines



John Darwin, a fraudster, plotted with his first wife Anne to feign his death in the North Sea by using a canoe. He may now be able to cash in on a TV series that depicts his crime.

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Teaser trailer for ITV’s The Thief, His Wife, And The Canoe

Out in the Philippines sunshine, a scruffy shopper loads goods into his car – from a store with a name that must have brought a smile to the face behind the mask.

This is notorious fraudster John Darwin who plotted with his first wife Anne to swindle nearly £700,000 – including life insurance and pensions – by faking his death in the North Sea in a canoe in 2002.

Twenty years after an outlandish con-trick made international headlines, Darwin, now 71, shops at WILCON.

The former teacher and prison officer may be hoping to cash in on his crime again as his story is turned into a major ITV drama about to hit our screens – and he is writing a tell-all book about his story.

We caught up with the Canoe Man in the 34C Pacific heat of the Philippines – a far cry from chilly Seaton Carew in County Durham where he faked his demise.

The crook refused to answer questions as he hopped into a £25,000 SUV and sped away from the Wilcon store car park in Antipolo, 10 miles from capital Manila.

Later, Darwin’s Mercy, Darwins 48-year old second wife, told us: “The book’s about his life, but it’s not yet finished. You have to wait.”

It will follow her husband’s autobiography The Canoe Man: Panama and Back, which he wrote while serving three-and-a-half years in jail before his 2011 release.

Mercy is angry the four-part ITV drama The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, starring Eddie Marsan as Darwin, has been made without her husband’s permission.

The fraud was committed in real life by Anne and Darwin in 2002. He was seen on the Seaton Carew beach, near Hartlepool, paddling. Anne then reported him missing as he was seen paddling out from Seaton Carew beach near Hartlepool. He then hid in the tent along the coast.

He then moved to a bedsit next door to the family home, making a door behind a wardrobe into Anne’s bedroom and growing a bushy beard as a disguise for trips into town.

The couple’s grieving two sons were never aware of what had really happened.

Four years later, the couple traveled to Panama to start a new chapter with their illgotten gains.

But they were caught after he came home to get papers from police needed for a change in Panama’s immigration laws – and gave them his real name, saying he had amnesia.

It was initially hailed as a miracle that the missing kayakist had somehow survived. The Mirror published a story about his lies under the headline “Canoe’s this in Panama?” in December 2007, with a snap of the pair in an estate agent’s office.

Anne and he were both sentenced to six years in prison for fraudulently obtaining cash. They concocted his disappearance to conceal a fraud in a pension, mortgage, and insurance scheme. They were ordered to repay £679,073.

The couple had £592,000 of assets – £501,641 had been repaid by 2012. Anne divorced him after 38 marriage years.

Darwin still receives a pension from the state, despite being almost 7,000 miles away.

A friend shared the following: “John and Mercy are really happy together. He feels like he’s been given a second chance at life and he’s grabbing it with both hands.”

One associate of Mercy’s said: “I have always believed John to be a rich guy. He still seems in good health.”

Mercy and Darwin have three properties in the local area. Mercy owns a number of businesses, including a clothing shop. According to reports, the couple met online in 2015.

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