Canoe man John Darwin seen after wife said he would fight in Ukraine

Sigh of relief for Putin! Canoe conman John Darwin is spotted near Manilla… eight days after Filipino wife claimed he was ‘on his way’ to fight for Ukraine

  • John Darwin, now 71, faked his own death with the help of his first wife in 2002
  • Their ruse came crashing down in 2007 and they were both jailed for six years 
  • The former prison officer has since moved to the Philippines and has remarried 
  • His new wife, Mercy Mae Avila, had claimed he was going to fight in Ukraine  
  • But the canoe man has now been seen shopping in the Philippine city of Antipolo

Canoe conman John Darwin has been pictured in the Philippines eight days after his new wife claimed he was going to fight Russian invaders in Ukraine and ahead of a new ITV drama about his world famous crime.

Mercy Mae Avila Darwin had claimed her 71-year-old husband had ‘good life insurance’ and insisted he was going to help Ukraine in its fight against its war-mongering neighbour. 

However, Darwin, who faked his own death with the help of his first wife in 2002, was pictured last week still in the east Asian country, where he lives with his 48-year-old wife. 

He was tracked down to his relatively reclusive life in Antipolo a city about an hour to the east of the Philippine capital, Manila. 

Canoe man John Darwin has been spotted in public in the city of Antipolo, about an hour east of Manila in the Philippines

Mercy Mae Avila Darwin, 48, said her 71-year-old husband John (both seen in the Philippines), who faked his death for money, is ‘on his way’ to join troops fighting against Russian forces

But just over a week later Darwin (pictured here with his new wife) was spotted running errands in his new home

Photos show the fraudster, who dramatically came in from the cold after five years of pretending to be dead in 2007, doing his shopping in an aptly named ‘Wilcon’ store.  

Last week MailOnline tracked the couple down to Mercy’s home, where they own a £30,000 three-storey house in a gated community.  

Darwin himself was elusive, but Mercy Mae told our reporter he wanted to be left alone to get on with his life and blasted a new ITV drama based on his crime.

‘My husband is happy and healthy and I’m looking after him,’ she said. 

‘We don’t want his past life all dredged up again on TV and in newspapers. 

‘I know what he did, he knows, and he paid penalty for that, he doesn’t need to be reminded.’

Darwin moved to the Philippines and married Mercy May, 47, several years after he was released from prison for faking his own death as part of a £679,000 insurance con

He and his new wife have tried to shun the spotlight, but that hasn’t stopped the production of a new ITV drama about his crime

Mercy Mae had ludicrously claimed to The Mirror her husband had been going to fight in Ukraine, and poured scorn on the dangers of the warzone. 

‘Yes, dangerous for the Russian when he shoot them,’ she said. 

‘He will have a bullet proof vest and good life insurance, good for me.’ 

It would seem if Darwin is planning on doing this, he has not done so yet. 

She remains angry about new series ‘The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe’ which starts later this month.

The astounding scam is now being re-told in a four-part ITV series called ‘The Thief, His Wife and a Canoe’ and stars Eddie Marsan as John while BAFTA award winner Monica Dolan takes on the role of Anne.

The drama will put a new spin on the fake death with Anne being portrayed as someone who was forced to go along with the plan by her narcissist husband.

The drama, starring Eddie Marsan as John Darwin and Monica Dolan as Anne Darwin, is set to be released later this month

The makers of the series say it will show her as a bullied wife who is emotionally blackmailed into taking part in the scam and left devastated after her sons disowned her.

The Darwins’ jaw-dropping deception tricked insurers, police and even their two sons into believing the ex-prison officer had died in a North Sea accident in 2002.  

The couple started a new life in Panama but the tale unravelled in 2007 when a photo emerged of John and his wife smiling alongside an estate agent in Panama where they had moved to run an eco-resort.

The pair were caught out when a photo showing them smiling in Panama after John was supposed to have died was found on the internet

Their elaborate plot wiped off their £700,000 debt and fooled insurers into paying out over £500,000 so that they could start a new life abroad.

They were jailed for the fraud and the extent of the parents’ deception shocked the world.

During her trial at Teesside Crown Court, Anne used the unusual defence of marital coercion, claiming her domineering husband had forced her to go through with the massive deception.

It failed, but some observers have said that her explanation would now get a more sympathetic hearing.

Eddie Marsan, who plays John, said even the crew were divided by what they made of Anne, played by Bafta-winner Monica Dolan.

He said: ‘There’s a generational interpretation of the story.

‘The older female members of the crew felt that she should have taken more responsibility and the younger ones felt that she was a victim.’

John Darwin (left) and his first wife Anne (right) were both jailed for more than six years for fraud

Anne, 70, now lives alone in a village near Middlesbrough where she lives quietly having re-built her life after a six-year prison sentence.

Dolan hoped the audience will ‘yo-yo’ in their feelings towards Anne, saying: ‘We can feel guilty but still do things.’

None of the Darwin family were involved in making the drama, though the script was based on court documents, police interviews, TV appearances and newspaper stories.

But one of the Darwin sons was thought to have turned up to watch the first day of filming on location in Hartlepool, Lang said, and kept a low profile in a baseball cap and wearing a Covid mask.  

Since his release in 2011, Darwin has offered little explanation for his actions.

Instead, he seemed to devote much of his energy into looking for younger women online, signing himself off as ‘John from England with blue eyes’.

He even got himself rearrested in Ukraine for a breach of his probation by travelling abroad to meet a potential sweetheart.

He first surfaced in the Philippines in 2015 after meeting Mercy online. Less than two months after their first encounter, the couple were married. 

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