Fraudster canoeist John Darwin caught out in Ukraine

The convicted fraudster could be handed more time in jail for leaving the country without permission

John Darwin, the canoeist who faked his own death as part of an elaborate fraud to cash in on life insurance policies and pensions, faces being returned to prison after being photographed in Ukraine in the company of a woman.

Darwin was jailed after pretending to go missing off the coast of Hartlepool in 2002. He secretly spent time living in a bedsit next door to his wife, Anne, while remaining hidden from the authorities for five years, before the couple surfaced in Panama where they planned to open an eco-resort with the proceeds of the £250,000 scam.

The Sun newspaper today printed pictures of the 63-year-old, who was released from prison in 2011, apparently enjoying a night out in the mining town of Sumy with a woman it is claimed he met on a foreign brides’ website.

He now faces being recalled to serve the remaining half of his six-year sentence after breaching the terms of his early release licence in 2011. It is believed he is still in Ukraine but is likely to be arrested on his return to the Britain.

A Probation Service spokeswoman declined to discuss  the specifics of Darwin’s case, but said: “Any offender subject to licence supervision is required to gain permission from probation to travel outside of the UK; permission is only granted in exceptional circumstances. Any offender who travels without this  permission will be subject to recall to custody.”

It was reported that Darwin spent Saturday evening with the woman – named Anna – at a restaurant where they enjoyed a two-hour meal assisted by a translator. However, they were later confronted by a reporter and photographer from the newspaper.

The Darwins had been facing financial ruin when they hatched their plot. The couple, from Seaton Carew, Cleveland, were jailed at Teesside Crown Court in 2008 for the fraud, which deceived the police, a coroner, financial institutions and even their sons Mark and Anthony. The Darwins later divorced.

In December 2007, Mr Darwin walked into a London police station claiming he had  amnesia and was reunited with his stunned sons. His wife, who was by then living  in Panama, claimed to be  surprised.