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things not to do when facing bankruptcy: fake your own death.

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I’m not sure how widely the case of John and Anne Darwin has been reported outside the UK, but I think it veers between farce and tragedy.

Six years ago, the Darwins were facing bankruptcy so in stupid idea number 1 they somehow decided that John should fake his death in a canoeing accident whilst his wife Anne claimed a total of about £250,000 on various insurance policies.

The next stupid idea to come to light was John walking in to a police station last December claiming to be suffering from amnesia. His wife, of course, said how delighted and relieved she was that he had reappeared. The story appeared in all the major newspapers and tv news shows.

The nail in the coffin of this harebrained scheme was the other stupid idea. The Darwins had been planning to move to Panama on the proceeds, whilst they were looking at an apartment in 2006, they posed together for a photograph. Which of course quickly made it’s way into the public eye. Both the husband and wife received have just received prison sentences for the scam.

That’s pretty much all the farce - the tragedy is that the couple had two grown up sons who were not in on the scam. They had spent nearly six years grieving their dead father, who turned out not so much dead as to have simply been lying, as had their mother.

Of course, it’s all completely ridiculous, fraud is not a good way of avoiding bankruptcy. In fact bankruptcy isn’t that bad, plenty of people do it and come out the other side perfectly well. If you have vast mounting debts, you can get proper advice from the following charities: Consumer Credit Counselling Service, National Debtline and the CAB - and plenty of support on the Money Saving Expert forums (try the debt-free wannabe, and bankruptcy and living with it boards).

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25 comments for “things not to do when facing bankruptcy: fake your own death.”

  1. I feel so sorry for their kids who went through the grief. Wow, I’ve never heard anything like this.

    Posted by Laura | July 24, 2008, 12:23 pm
  2. I’m with Laura - it’s the kids who have suffered and will continue to do so for some time yet I would imagine.

    Considering bankruptcy usually lasts for only a year, 6+ years in jail seems like a rather appropriate sentence.

    Posted by Scam | July 24, 2008, 12:52 pm
  3. This case hasn’t really been publicized in the States, but I listen to a BBC channel on my satellite radio and heard the story there. However, I never heard that the whole scheme was because the couple was facing bankruptcy. That’s crazy. Why do people think that they can get away with these things?

    Posted by Kristen | July 24, 2008, 1:14 pm
  4. If they hadn’t let a picture of themselves in Panama get into the public domain then they would have got away with it!

    Posted by Scam | July 24, 2008, 1:18 pm
  5. Ha Ha what a bunch of idiots the wife was lying allthe way through court, feel sorry for the kids. Holywood will get hold of this and make a film.

    Posted by Mortgage Broker | July 24, 2008, 1:41 pm
  6. I’ve seen the story on CNN and CBC websites, but I still get all my news from the BBC so I’ve been reading this.
    I still can’t figure out why on earth he went back, maybe he missed his kids. Anyway the whole thing is very movie worthy, but I feel incredibly sorry for his sons.

    Posted by Looby | July 24, 2008, 3:01 pm
  7. The BBC website is great for news, maybe the guy just had enough of pretending to be dead. It must have been very stressful, so he just walked in the end.

    Posted by Mortgage Broker | July 24, 2008, 3:10 pm
  8. Yes I have heard of it even though I am in the US because I get BBC podcast. Yup that was a stupid idea and cruel to their children.

    Posted by smartypantsmoney | July 24, 2008, 3:47 pm
  9. Allegedly, the husband and wife had a serious argument, and that’s why he went to the police station. I’m not thinking that he’s the sharpest tool in the shed to be honest.

    Posted by plonkee | July 24, 2008, 4:02 pm
  10. Yep, we’d heard about this one here in Australia, it was quite fascinating in its crazyness actually.

    Posted by DebtDieter | July 24, 2008, 7:34 pm
  11. Those poor children! I honestly would like to know how this idea was even thought up. It is so outlandish and weird. Maybe that’s why they thought they could get away from it. It was so crazy that there could be no way they could make it up.

    Posted by Maggie | July 24, 2008, 7:51 pm
  12. Amazing! Who would do something like this. I would never be able to abandon my kids. Especially not to make them think that I am dead. Crazy is right!

    Posted by Jane | July 24, 2008, 7:55 pm
  13. People even take advantage of rail/air accidents and worse disasters to “disappear,” while their SO claims insurance proceeds.

    Years from now at least one person whose “widow” collected US $1 million plus from the 9/11 attacks will turn up alive and well.

    Posted by Bill in NC | July 24, 2008, 8:19 pm
  14. It is unbelievable those parents would keep up a lie for 6 years just to cash in on insurance. My heart went out to the two sons - the level of manipulation, fake sincerity, it’s unforgivable. Whatever the legal ramifications I don’t see how that family will ever be the same again. I certainly don’t see any reason for the sons to forgive them.

    Posted by Shaz | July 25, 2008, 8:00 am
  15. Wow. The committing fraud aspect of it is pretty bad, but to lie to your children like that? And to avoid bankruptcy? Yes, bankruptcy is a tough thing, but is it so awful that you need to lie to your children and tell them their father died (and keep up the lie for six years)? How awful. I feel badly for the two sons.

    Posted by Frugal Vet Tech | July 25, 2008, 4:58 pm
  16. It’s pretty wild, especially when you consider that they look like such nice, boring middle-class people. They could be friends of my parents! Just shows you, you never know what’s going on behind closed doors ….

    It could be worse there have been suicides reported too. Some people take seriously the nonsense demonizing of bankruptcy and the people who take that option, I guess. “What would the neighbours think” - well, what do they think now!

    Posted by guinness416 | July 26, 2008, 12:41 pm
  17. Every time I hear more of the details I laugh a little louder. I feel incredibly sad for their sons, but how this couple thought he could walk into a police station and they could get on with their lives is just unbelievable!

    Posted by Frugal Trenches | July 27, 2008, 12:23 pm
  18. I do remember this making CNN’s headlines last December. I felt worst for the boys, the pain and worry and fear or losing a parent…it’s bad enough if they’d let it go on for a month or two, but 6 years is heartless.

    Posted by Mrs. Micah | July 27, 2008, 1:59 pm
  19. That is just too funny. I wonder what another thing to do to avoid bankruptcy would be … emigrate to Sierra Leon?

    Posted by Steward @ My Family's Money | July 30, 2008, 6:11 am
  20. I vaguely remember when he was found, but I never heard the back story. But seriously, what ever happened to personal responsibility? Something happened, you were facing bankrupcy, you own up to life and file for bankruptsy.

    Posted by sara l | August 5, 2008, 3:04 pm
  21. Serdal Altundal

    Posted by Lida | February 25, 2010, 9:32 am

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