Broadcaster reveals Hartlepool fraudster John Darwin's inspiration for canoe con - and his after-dinner speaking ambitions

A Hartlepool-based DJ has given a fascinating insight into John Darwin by recalling his meetings with the canoe fraudster.

Tuesday, 19th April 2022, 4:24 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th April 2022, 5:11 pm

Paul "Goffy” Gough, who runs Goffy Media based in Hartlepool, met Darwin – the subject of new ITV drama The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe – a number of times after his release from prison.

During several meetings and interviews, Darwin revealed the inspiration for the audacious faking of his own death, various schemes with wife Anne to visit their Seaton Carew home, and his plans to travel the world as an after dinner speaker.

Goffy was contacted by Darwin in 2013. The former Century Radio star and current BBC Radio Tees presenter, said: “Out of the blue John Darwin called me and asked If I could give him an understanding of how the lucrative after-dinner circuit worked.

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DJ Paul Gough (left) with John Darwin.

“I explained that some of the big names attracted fees of up to £10,000 and he felt that his story would attract people to listen to him.

"Through my 30 years in the media and broadcasting I have interviewed endless top celebrities with amazing anecdotes to tell – but his was on another level.

"He was very engaging and the story is still to this day hard to comprehend.”

Darwin faked his own death in 2002. After being declared dead after a year, he started a new life with the life insurance in Panama where he was joined by his wife Anne.

Anne and John Darwin.

Five years later he came back from the dead when he walked into a London police station claiming loss of memory.

In 2008 he was jailed for six years for fraud, and Anne for six-and-a-half years.

Goffy added: “He told me how his wife Anne would arrange the curtains in their homes on Seaton Carew front – if they were fully open all was clear and if partly drawn there would be people inside the house and possible danger.

"Between the two of them they had worked out many schemes to keep people off the scent.”

Actors Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan portray Hartlepool couple John and Anne Darwin in the ITV drama./Photo: ITV

According to Goffy, Darwin came up with the idea for faking his death after hearing many unbelievable stories from his time working as a prison officer.

He added he wanted to tell his story in public to address perceived inaccuracies in the 2010 TV film Canoe Man which starred Bernard Hill.

Goffy said: “He was meticulous in the planning as he was convinced that many people would want to hear his view of it all.

“His intention was to head to a warmer climate as he had been forced to endure cold winters in Seaton Carew and because he had spent so long in Panama he felt he could no longer handle the freezing weather here."

But his plans changed when after travelling to the Philippines in 2015 he met and married Mercy Mae after a whirlwind romance.

In The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, which filmed in Seaton Carew and on the Headland, Darwin is played by actor Eddie Marson, who has appeared in a number of Hollywood films.

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