Monday, November 16, 2009

The strange case of the Darwins...

It's really too cold and blustery this morning to contemplate a paddle in my non existent canoe.  What fancy I take it anyway and plan to disappear?  My broken, deserted-washed up on the beach-red canoe will be the only clue to my supposed untimely and tragic death?

Once things have quietened down my wife can join me in faraway Panama City clutching a purse crammed with falsely claimed life insurance and pension funds. We could then peacefully live out our days in exquisite excess and kindlier climes to those offered by the harsh North-East of England.

Perfect! And it almost worked...not for me Mr Squeeky Clean Ken, but for John & Anne who are now left high and dry without a paddle between them.

Last week the Times featured this strange case of John Darwin who faked his own death with help from his devoted wife Anne way back in 2002. They intended to live a cosy life with life insurance and pension claims.  They were rumbled last year and last week the sentence was at last announced and justice metered out which saw them stripped of all assets and consigned back to jail...straight to jail, do not pass "GO" , do not collect £200.

I may already have told you about my connection with this case, but it's worth repeating.

No, I didn't sell him the canoe or arranged the life insurance.  Nor did I ever live next door to them even though I'm from the region in question.  I never did nor ever will meet them, yet there is a connection which was in evidence a long, long time ago.

Flash-back to 1968...I had recently left school and was back home in my native North-East England and shortly after that returned to live with my mother for the first time in about eight years.

To shorten the story, I was pushed into a relationship with one of the daughters of my mum's best friend and duly obliged.

I remember well my feeling hot under the collar as we sat in front of a blazing fire on the sofa in their front room with her sisters and mother watching our every move.  The family delighted in plying me with information that made her blush but I eventually found the opening to get ourselves excused so we could be alone before it got too late.

We ended up outside on the step in the freezing cold.  I almost wished we were back on the least I was warmer and a lot closer to her. I eventually edged closer and held her hand before plotting my move to kiss her goodnight but was horrified that a drip had formed at the end of my nose and was threatening to drop at the crucial moment.  I'm sure she saw it shimmering in the frosty air and illuminated by lamplight.

Anyway, before that fateful moment, I had learned that her younger brother had died.  Isn't it funny how you wait for positive conversation to be romantic but when you get news like that, all you can do is stare ahead in silence after an awkward apology and search for something comforting to say.

I wouldn't recommend first dates in February.  I don't think we felt inclined to see each other again but the family remained friends.

Fast forward 40 years...and my sister and I are reminiscing about the old days and she suddenly remembers the Jones family and recalls seeing my "girlfriend" in the newspaper trying to get a petition together to stop easy access to death certificates for illegal passport use.

Then it dawned on me.  I had read about John Darwin assuming the identity of a baby boy that had died from Sunderland's East End...only now was it confirmed to be the brother of my first date and family friend.

That's it!  A sad case and painful memories for many reasons.

We've gone from Flash-Back to Fast-Forward and now it's almost  time to watch Flash-Forward.


  1. Wow, lost for words with a link like that. The baby part of it was probably lost on everyone bar the immediate family.

  2. It always amazes me that people think they can get away with stuff like that. But then I suppose some of them must do, otherwise nobody would try it.

    If you were to take another identity and run away from life, who would it be, and to where ??

    Our problem is working out how we can both fall off our perches without leaving a pile of dosh for the vultures to enjoy. Having two houses (however modest) and no kids means my brother and his sisters will cop for the lot unless we can spend it. Any ideas ?
    Sorry to have digressed.