SEATON CAREW, England - Two brothers whose father turned up at a police station five years after disappearing said yesterday they were furious to learn their mother may have known he was alive and did not tell her sons.
John Darwin, 57, was declared dead after an apparent canoe accident in March 2002, but appeared Saturday at a police station in London claiming to have suffered amnesia.
He was arrested early Wednesday on suspicion of faking his death, and police in northern England questioned him yesterday over a suspected life insurance scam.
Anne Darwin, who has been living in Panama, acknowledged she had kept in touch with her husband and hidden it from their children, British newspapers reported yesterday.
Anthony and Mark Darwin, who believed their father was dead, said they were dismayed and want no further contact with their parents if the reports are true.
"If the papers' allegations of a confession from our mam are true, then we very much feel that we have been the victims in a large scam," they said in a statement. "How could our mam continue to let us believe our dad had died when he was very much alive?"
Darwin's wife said in an interview published by the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror newspapers that she initially believed her husband had died in the North Sea in March 2002, when he was believed to have had a canoeing accident.
"It was years later," she said, when her husband contacted her and revealed he was still alive, the reports said. She would not say when or how he made contact.
An official at Panama's National Migration Department, who spoke anonymously because she was not authorized to speak publicly, said Anne Darwin left the country Wednesday night but did not say where she went.
She had said she would return to Britain to explain to her sons and to police what happened.
"My sons will never forgive me," she was quoted as saying. "They knew nothing. They thought John was dead. Now they're going to hate me. They'll be devastated and will probably want nothing to do with me again."
Her sons said they were confused and angry after a "roller- coaster of emotion."
"We have not spoken to either of our parents since our dad's arrest and at this present time we want no further contact with them," they said.
Investigators believe the couple communicated by phone and applied for credit cards to fund a new life in South America, a police official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
Inquiries into Darwin's whereabouts began several months ago when Anne Darwin was overheard by an acquaintance speaking to her husband on the phone, the official said.
Law enforcers are investigating whether John Darwin had hidden in the United States since 2002, after an appeal for information produced calls mainly from the U.S. and Panama, the official said.
The deception unraveled when Darwin handed himself into police on Saturday in London.
Officers believe he had been tipped off that an investigation was under way.
Anne Darwin said her husband had not been in Panama for all of the last five years, but that the couple had rented a villa for a brief holiday and posed for a photo with the real estate agent.
Anne Darwin said she knew of her husband's plan to return to Britain, but what unfolded next surprised her.
"I knew he was going back. But I didn't know he was going to the police," she was quoted as saying.
She said it was possible her husband had suffered some kind of breakdown.
"Do I still love John? Yes I do, and it's probably what's got me in this situation. When you love someone, all you want to do is protect them," she was quoted as saying. "Maybe I just chose the wrong husband. I did nothing wrong in the beginning." *