Words of 'canoe widow' came back to haunt her

"I have no reason to think he would have left and stage-managed this." Those were the words of Anne Darwin as she described the struggle to cope with the disappearance of her husband, John.



"I think John has met with an unfortunate accident in the sea and has died. That's the only way I have been able to cope with it."

As Cleveland Police press officer Charlie Westberg gently questioned Mrs Darwin six months after her husband vanished, something troubled him.

What struck Mr Westberg as he sat in the front room of Mrs Darwin's large Victorian town house in Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, was that there were no photographs of her missing husband.

"We are not ones for photographs," he recalls Mrs Darwin saying.

How ironic then that the mystery of John Darwin's disappearance began to unravel when a woman typed "John, Anne, Panama" into the images section of internet search engine Google.

Up popped a photograph, apparently dated July 14 2006, of John and Anne Darwin taken in Panama.

The woman, who was not named, emailed the picture to Cleveland Police and the Daily Mirror, which published it on its front page the next day, beneath the headline "Canoe's this in Panama?".

Mr Westberg remembers Mrs Darwin as being very quiet and withdrawn. During the hour-long interview, he struggled to draw her out of her shell.

He also thought how difficult it must be for broken-hearted Mrs Darwin to look out at the panoramic sea view from the house's large bay windows each day and see where her husband disappeared.

Mr Westberg's press release of September 2002 painted a picture of a woman left in limbo - her life on hold until her missing husband was found either dead or alive.

A veteran former regional newspaper journalist, Mr Westberg's reporter's intuition told him something was not right about Mrs Darwin - but he could not put his finger on it.

She shunned the media, a reaction not unusual when unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight after tragedy strikes.

It was only six months after her husband vanished that she reluctantly agreed to be interviewed, but only by the police.

What Mr Westberg could not know as he sat in her living room, was that Mrs Darwin had picked up her husband from the shore when he "disappeared" in his red canoe.

Not only that, but her missing husband was safe and well, living next door, having assumed the identity of "John Jones".

No wonder she did not have any pictures on show.

Mr Westberg said: "I thought it was strange that she did not have a photograph of her husband. She just said something like 'We are not ones for photographs'.

"Now we know why, because he was probably next door the whole time."

Mr Westberg, who now works as a press officer for Durham Police, said Mrs Darwin was a reluctant interviewee.

"She was very quiet and very quietly spoken. She did not want to say much and had to be prompted to say anything," he said.

"I thought it was very sad that there she was in this very big Victorian house looking out of the window and looking out to sea where her husband disappeared."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Bianca Miller in the final of The Apprentice
tvMark Wright and Bianca Miller fight for Lord Sugar's investment
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
News
i100
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick