'Dead' husband wrote protest letter to council

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The Independent Online

Pretending to be dead would presumably involve keeping your head down and avoiding the attention of authorities. But not in the case of John Darwin.

So confident was he that he had got away with faking his own death, that Darwin had the audacity to write to his local council - under his fake identity of John Jones, stolen from a dead infant - to protest against his neighbour's planning application.

While he was supposedly dead, Darwin lived the life of a recluse in a cramped bedsit hideaway, connected to his wife Anne's seafront home at 3-4 The Cliff in Seaton Carew.

But while he grew a beard and developed a limp to go unnoticed in the street, he had no qualms about penning a strongly-worded letter of objection four years after he "died" when John Beddow next door applied to convert 2 The Cliff into a guesthouse.

Anne Darwin wrote her own letter opposing the planning application, but her husband must have felt this was inadequate.

His five-page letter to Hartlepool Borough Council, with three photographs attached, objected to the application on six points, including "Annoyance to neighbours" and "Question of car parking spaces".

About the latter point, Darwin seemed particularly vexed, writing: "The numbers do not add up.

"The plans are for FOUR guest bedrooms. On the planning application he states parking for 3 cars ...is he going to turn down the fourth guest if he/she has a car? I think not."

He said: "My maths is not very good, but it still comes out greater than three spaces. Or is the number 3 a blatant attempt to get permission while knowing that there will be more than a total of 3 with his car?"

He expressed concern that residents of The Cliff would be forced to park on the highway or a nearby car park. In two photographs provided to illustrate his point, his own Range Rover can be seen parked outside his wife's house with the personalised number plate B9 JRD.

Darwin proposed: "He can not have cars parked on the block-paving area in front of £2 as how will these cars move if they are blocked in?......(other owners gone for a walk along the beach somewhere!!).

"Human nature being what it is, cars will soon be parked in front of other people's houses."

He also wrote in detail about the lack of fire escape routes from the upper floor, stating: "To the best of my knowledge, a rope ladder or knotted sheet is not what the fire brigade would recommend especially if the evacuees are elderly or children."

His final point concerned the "detrimental visual impact" that the numbers of cars parked, a disabled ramp and an advertising sign for the guesthouse could have.

The letter is signed J Jones of 4 The Cliff and dated March 9 2006. He also provided the email address john-jones-1850yahoo.co.uk - the same account he used to email his wife from Panama.

But the considerable time and effort - and the huge risk - he took in objecting was unsuccessful, and on March 29 2006 planning permission was approved.

Ocean View Guest House at 2 The Cliff - no doubt much to Darwin's annoyance - now boasts four guest bedrooms and "uninterrupted views of the bay".