Darwin's memoirs: 'If we couldn't die, then I could pretend to die'

The following are edited extracts from the letters John Darwin managed to send from inside prison
Click to follow
The Independent Online

*Darwin's troubles began with mounting debts. He and his wife ran a second business in which they would let bedsits in Co Durham. They had 12 houses, but some were empty and the rent was not being paid on others.

He wrote: "Boxed in. Nowhere to turn to. Pressures from bailiffs. Stress at work from staff unpleasantness. Stress from lack of sleep through taking on too much, a full-time job and those houses ... too much."

*But bankruptcy was not an option he would take: "The thought of losing everything was more than I could bear. Not only would I think I was a failure in the eyes of Anne – but also in the eyes of my two sons, as I would have lost the family home, lost absolutely everything that Anne and I had worked for. To me, there was a stigma to being bankrupt, declared a failure."

*To escape, Darwin considered suicide: "I'd had enough. What was the point in going on? If this is life then I'd be better off dead because I certainly wasn't enjoying life."

*But after abandoning thoughts of a genuine suicide attempt, worrying that his wife too would kill herself with grief, he had what he calls his "Eureka moment": "If we couldn't die then, my crazed brain reasoned, I could pretend to die. After all, I wouldn't be the first man to kill himself because of financial pressures. The only difference in this case was that it would look like an accident. A suicide would be useless – the insurance company wouldn't pay out."

*He then explained the moment he mentioned his scheme to his wife in a chapter called "Telling Anne of this Crazy Plan": "We were sitting together in the drawing room. She was cold and sat next to the fire when I broached the subject of our dire financial straits. I told Anne, 'I can't think of what else we can do. Can you?'

'No,' she whispered, shrinking so that she seemed even smaller and more vulnerable than she had of late.

'There's only one solution,' I exclaimed. 'I'll fake my own death.'

The colour drained from her face and she looked at me in total disbelief. Not wanting to be interrupted, I continued: 'I'll fake my own death, you claim the insurance, pay off the debts and, in a few years, I'll find a way to come back.' She hadn't moved. She was stunned. The seconds dragged out and finally she spoke.

'You aren't serious! It's the most stupidest idea I've ever heard. You'll never get away with it. Besides, what will you tell the boys?'

'What else can we do? You think of something!' I shouted at her.

'I can't! I can't!' she cried. 'I'm not going through with it.'

We argued for hours.

'What about the boys?' she kept asking. 'You should tell them.'

'I can't. They will be accomplices in the crime,' I said.

'You are cruel. What will they think?' she wailed.

I said, 'I have two choices left. I can either fake my own death or I can do it for real and, to be honest, I'm thinking doing it for real will be the best way.'

'No!' she screamed, as she ran out of the room in hysterics.

Walking back upstairs, I sat on the sofa with head in hands wondering when I should just paddle out to sea and capsize the kayak."

*Darwin refers to a conversation he had with Anne the day before he enacted his plan. Explaining to his wife what would happen, he wrote:

"'There's no future left for me. You'll be all right, though.'

Anne frowned. 'What do you mean, 'I'll be alright'?' she asked.

'Just that. You'll get the money and be able to pay off the bills,' I replied, trying to sound confident.

Still frowning, Anne said, 'You said 'I' not 'We'. What about you?'

'I don't count. You're better off without me,' I said in a whisper.

'You've gone as white as a sheet!' she said. 'What are you really saying? Are you leaving me?'

'I'm not leaving you,' I wearily said.

'Then ... No. You're not! You can't be!' she said, her voice rising.

'I told you I am going out in the kayak,' I told her quietly.

'Are you now saying you are doing it for real?' Anne said.

Neither of us could bring ourselves to use the word suicide.

'It's better this way. Better for you. Better for everyone if I was out of everyone's lives,' I told her.

'I don't want you out of my life. I love you!' she shouted."