John Darwin’s disguise was almost blown

Canoe man John Darwin was almost caught faking his own death – due to his ‘disguise’ with a giant bushy beard .

His ex-wife Anne, 64, told of the risks he took going out of their former home even after he was supposed to be lost at sea.

Dressed in clothes from a charity shop, he grew a long beard and walked with a limp past insurance officials who staked out the property in Seaton Carew, Co Durham, suspicious of the scam based on his ‘death’.

The real-life disguise was straight out of the hit TV series ‘The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin’, where Reggie – played by Leonard Rossiter – fakes his death at sea, only to come back as his ‘best friend’ Martin Wellbourne.

Anne told how their lies were almost exposed in June 2004, two years after John disappeared in his canoe in March, 2002.

John Darwin’s disguise from when he was using the alias of John Jones

"I had a phone call from the police informing me that they’d had a report of John being sighted outside our home,” she recalls.

“They asked if I’d heard anything from him. I said no, but the call sent me into a panic.

“My immediate thought was that the police would want to search the house.

“If they had come knocking on the door instead of phoning I don’t know what I would have done.

The couple’s son Mark Darwin

“It turned out a former colleague of John’s had spotted him as he drove along the Seaton seafront.

The prison officer reported to the police that the man he saw had a long grey beard and resembled Saddam Hussein at the time of his capture.

“But he was 100 per cent certain it was John Darwin.”

Anne Darwin has revealed how her husband was almost caught

She added: “I was amazed that something like this had not happened before.

After all, John’s appearance had not changed that much. But rather than coming to my home to check out the sighting, the police fortunately – or perhaps foolishly – simply rang me.

“Astonishingly, they did not even follow up with a visit."

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In an interview with the Mirror, she said John’s king size ego meant he always thought he could evade the law.

“I did not have big ideas of grandeur like him,” she said. “But I got carried along with his plans, and lost myself within that.

“I wish we had just declared ourselves bankrupt , but he could not face the shame of that. I said that to him several times.

Anne and husband John with sons Mark and Anthony at a family wedding in 1997

“In the early days, people would ask if they thought he was still alive,

but then as time went on they accepted he was dead.

“The images of my sons on the beach where John went missing will never leave me, and I regret that more than anything. It was the conflict of being a mother, and being a wife.”