/ 4 December 2007

Missing man turns up after five years, wife disappears

The wife of a British man who disappeared more than five years ago but then turned up alive at the weekend has herself gone missing, media reports said on Tuesday.

John Darwin (57), who was thought to have died in a canoeing accident in the North Sea, walked in to a London police station and declared he was a missing person, but had no memory of where he had been.

As police try to piece together the mystery, newspapers said his wife, Anne, has now disappeared, with family and friends unaware of her whereabouts.

She immigrated about six weeks ago, possibly to Panama in Central America, after selling the family home in Seaton Carew, north-east England, and not leaving a forwarding address, reports said.

Puzzled neighbours and the house’s new owners told reporters she left furniture in the house and Spanish language books.

Six months after her husband’s disappearance she thought she was a widow. An inquest was also held into his death.

A number of newspapers said the wife had an active bank account in Panama. But other neighbours were convinced she was in Australia or the Caribbean.

Police questioned John Darwin, a former teacher and prison officer who was declared dead after the remains of his canoe were washed up on the beach at Seaton Carew in March 2002.

At the weekend he walked into a police station saying ”I think I am a missing person”, according to the Guardian.

”The guy can’t remember anything about what’s happened or why he’s come forward. He has no memory at all. He has obviously been somewhere for the last five years and a lot of questions need answering,” it cited a source as saying.

His father, Ronald (91) was quoted as saying that a childhood accident in which his son was knocked over by a car and suffered a head injury could account for his amnesia.

The case has revived memories of others in which people have disappeared or apparently committed suicide, only to emerge years later very much alive.

Notable examples include that of Richard Bingham, the seventh Earl of Lucan, who vanished in 1974 when his children’s nanny was found murdered at his estranged wife’s house in London, and the former government minister, John Stonehouse.

Over the years there have been a number of claimed sightings of Lucan, who was a notorious gambler with huge debts.

In 1974 Stonehouse left his clothes on a beach in Miami and fled to Australia with his secretary to start a new life, leaving his wife, another mistress, a daughter and mounting debts.

He was tracked down, coincidentally by police hunting Lord Lucan, and jailed in 1976 for theft and false pretences. After leaving jail he worked for charities and died in 1988. — Sapa-AFP