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Mr Westberg remembers Mrs Darwin as being very quiet and withdrawn.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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

Front-End Developer (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C#, GUI)

£55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...

Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?