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Where is the ‘Canoe Man’ John Darwin Now?

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Two decades after Hartlepool prison officer John Darwin attempted to fake his own death in a canoeing ‘accident’, ITV aired a dramatised version of the bizarre events.

The former prison officer paddled out to sea in a canoe near his family home at Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, before ditching the vessel to give the impression that he drowned. The ‘Canoe Man’ had attempted to disappear in 2002 in order for his wife Anne to claim life insurance money before being caught out in 2007 and jailed for six years for the fraud. After his disappearance in March 2002, a large-scale search involving the scouring of 62 square miles of coastline looked to have confirmed the worst, as only a single paddle and then the wreckage of his kayak was discovered.

For much of Darwin’s missing five years, he had been living in secret in his own home in the seaside resort of Seaton Carew, where he shared a bed with his wife. When family and friends visited and his sons returned from the inquest into his alleged death, Darwin hid in a bedsit next door that was accessed through a passageway hidden behind the door of a fake cupboard.

Darwin later admitted that he would carry out DIY on the front of his family home and even walked around his area disguised as an old man – even as his two now grown-up sons Anthony and Mark continued to grieve for him thinking he was dead. The couple even lied to their own children as they attempted to claim pension, benefits and insurance to clear nearly £700,000 before they were caught.

Just under a year after he disappeared, Darwin turned up at his family home looking ‘an absolute mess’, his wife said.She claimed that she had really believed he was dead before he turned up.

‘Although I was pleased he was still alive, I think deep down a part of me was always angry,’ she said.

‘To think of what he put us all through. He had basically come back expecting me to forgive him.’

She claimed that she wanted to report what he had done but he then threatened to say she had been involved from the start, so she was ‘trapped’. At the inquest into his disappearance in April 2003, Mrs Darwin was able to have her husband declared dead, even though the seven years that is usually needed after someone has gone missing had not yet passed.

The couple eventually decided to leave Seaton Carew and move to Panama City to start a new life together before their secret was exposed by the discovery of an infamous photo of them posing in a Panama real estate office in July 2006. Darwin, stole the identity of a dead baby named John Jones.

The family home was sold and the couple spent several months together in Panama after they had bought a £50,000 two-bed apartment in a suburb of Panama City. They also hoped to open a canoeing centre for eco-tourists.

But Darwin then wanted to return to the UK because, Mrs Darwin said, he missed his sons. He said he would claim to have suffered amnesia.

The famous Panama photo, 2006

Knowing there was a viral photograph of them in Panama, Darwin walked into a police station in December 2007 and said he thought he was a ‘missing person’ but said he could not remember anything that had happened in the past five years.

When their two sons were called to the police station to be reunited with their father, the couple had to pretend to be astonished as they too saw each other again.

During their time in prison, the couple divorced with John citing ‘unreasonable  behaviour’ as a reason for the split. John moved to Manila and remarried after the divorce to Filipino woman Mercy Mae Avila Darwin, 48.

In 2008, after the scandal made national headlines, John was found guilty on deception charges and jailed for six years and three months. Anne was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in jail for fraud and money-laundering charges. After her release from prison, Anne Darwin moved to a village near York and was able to get a job with the RSCPA thanks to qualifications she gained in prison.

ITV drama about John and Anne Darwin’s fraud. The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe airs in April.

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ITV to Launch Love Island For Middle-Aged Single Parents

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Casting is open for the dating show, in which contestants will be nominated by their adult children

ITV has begun casting for a dating show for single parents. The contestants on The Romance Retreat will be nominated by their adult children to search for love at a Love Island-style villa.

“This is the only dating show where single parents can search for love, by spending time in a luxury retreat, where all the parents have been nominated by their grownup children,” reads the casting call.

A take on Love Island, which is a hit among gen Z viewers, for older contestants has been rumoured for months. In January, Davina McCall told Stephen Bartlett’s podcast, The Diary of a CEO, that she had pitched the idea to ITV.

“I could fill a villa in Love Island with middle-aged people with the best back stories you have ever heard in your life,” she said.

“They’ve lived a life – they’re widows, they’re people who have been through horrific divorces. They are people who have split up with somebody and decided they want to try going out with somebody the same sex as them. They’re like interesting people. I’d watch that show.”

According to the presenter, ITV responded to her request to host a show of that style with: “We’re looking at something else that’s quite similar, we might consider you for that”.

The current series of Love Island began on Monday, with a stricter set of rules in place to protect contestants’ wellbeing. Participants’ social media accounts must now remain unused while they are in the villa, rather than be operated on their behalf. It follows contestants’ families – who often run their accounts during the show – appealing for kinder comments from viewers.

This is the first series to be hosted by Maya Jama, after Laura Whitmore stepped down in August.

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Sunday for Sammy Concert Cancelled For 2023 Due To Cost of Living

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A popular charity concert will not be held in 2023 due to the cost of living crisis.

Sunday for Sammy, which is held in memory of North East actor Sammy Johnson, is a biennial event aimed at benefitting young performers.

The long-running event has featured the likes of Joe McElderry, Johnny Vegas, Brenda Blethyn, Denise Welch, AC/DC’s Brian Johnson and Mark Knopfler, Jill Halfpenny and Ant and Dec.

Tim Healy, who hosts Sunday for Sammy, said: “We’ve had lots of enquiries over the recent months asking when the next Sunday for Sammy will take place.

“We are very much aware at the moment that people are struggling with day-to-day living costs and are watching their pennies. Everything is becoming more and more expensive and that includes the cost of putting on a show the size of ours.”

He added: “We can’t in good conscious put on a show that we aren’t sure people can afford to be tickets for. It would be wrong to risk your money you have generously given us.

“So sadly we have decided that there won’t be a show in 2023. We’re going to wait until the time is right.”

Often dubbed The Geordie Command Performance, the shows, which have been running for more than 20 years, are held in memory of Geordie actor Sammy Johnson, who died in 1999.

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Former Health Secretary, Matt Hancock to enter I’m a Celebrity!

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Matt Hancock I'm a Celebrity

News had not long broke that ex Health secretary Matt Hancock was to enter the jungle in I’m a celerity that he has had his Tory Whip suspended.

 

Matt Hancock is expected to be added as a surprise final addition to the line-up of celebrities who will travel to Australia as part of the reality TV show this year.

 

Asked about Matt Hancock appearance, Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman said: “The PM believes that at a challenging time for the country MPs should be working hard for their constituents, whether that is in the House or in their constituency.” The spokesman said it was “unlikely” Mr Sunak would be watching the programme.

 

Simon Hart, the chief whip, confirmed that Mr Hancock would have the whip removed – “Following a conversation with Matt Hancock, I have considered the situation and believe this is a matter serious enough to warrant suspension of the whip with immediate effect.”

 

What do you think of him appearing in the hit TV show?

 

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