CANOE conman John Darwin is reportedly back living in Seaton Carew – just yards from the home where he plotted the elaborate insurance scam that saw him fake his own death.
Darwin is said to be living in a two-bedroomed bungalow not far from his old seafront home at The Cliff, where he had hidden in a secret room as the deception unfolded before jetting off for a life of luxury in Panama.
Locals say he has been seen shopping at Elizabeth Way shops as he tries to start life afresh.
The 60-year-old was pictured smiling outside a house in Seaton Carew. He first moved to Easington Colliery following his release from prison for the £680,000 life insurance scam.
It has been reported that he is need of a hip replacement and complained that he could not manage the stairs at the house in Easington.
Today Darwin’s former neighbours spoke of their surprise at his return.
Alec Dixon, 83, who lives next-door-but-one to Darwin’s former home at The Cliff and knew the conman and wife Anne, said: “I know a few people who said they spoke to him and someone saw him round Elizabeth Way shops.
“I’m not surprised he’s back – he will have to go somewhere and I think he liked it around here.
“I think he wants to forget about it.
“I know when he first came out of prison he was seen around the front of the house, so it would seem he’s always wanted to come back to Seaton.”
Seaton Carew businessman David Young, who owns Young’s Fisheries on The Front, said: “The last time he came for a look around Seaton nobody even recognised him.
“Time heals everything, and he has probably had enough of everything and wants to move on.”
Former prison guard Darwin was sentenced to six years and three months behind bars in July 2008 after admitting faking his own death in a 2002 canoeing accident to allow his wife, Anne, to make fraudulent insurance and pension claims.
The 60-year-old walked free from Moorland open prison in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, in January after serving around half his sentence.
Anne, 59, who was locked up for six-and-a-half years but released in March, is now estranged from her husband and reportedly living in a hostel in Leeds.