The Liar, the Switch and the Wardrobe

Police Find Secret Passage Through a Wardrobe to Darwin's Hideout

— -- British police have released a photo of John Darwin today in an effort to determine where the "dead canoeist" has been for the last five years. His wife told a British newspaper the couple had hoped to slip away and start a tropical tourist resort in Panama.

"It was a nice dream while it lasted," Anne Darwin told The Daily Mirror in editions published today.

Darwin, who stunned the world by showing up at a police station five years after he was declared dead in a canoe accident, was remanded in custody today until his hearing at Hartlepool Magistrates Court, Friday. He is charged with obtaining money by deception and making a false declaration to procure a passport. If convicted, he could spend up to 10 years in jail.

Police in Cleveland, England, said they also had started questioning Anne for claiming $50,000 from his life insurance policy. They arrested her Sunday on suspicion of fraud, as soon as her plane touched down in the United Kingdom from Miami.

Initially Anne claimed that she was delighted and surprised to learn her husband was alive, but then a photo emerged showing the Darwins together in Panama a year ago. She later admitted to concocting a tangled web of lies.

The British tabloid paper the News of the World reported this weekend that it was the first paper to see the bricked-up, coffin-shaped doorway that led from the home Darwin shared with wife Anne to his secret hideaway bedsit next door. He entered the bedsit by a wardrobe with a false back. When family or friends called on the "widow" Anne in Hartlepool in northern England, Darwin would hotfoot it next door.

During their search, the police were led to the suspicious cupboard in Anne's bedroom by the house's new owner, John Duffield.

He told the News of the World: "The police asked if there were any passageways between the houses so I looked at the master bedroom. There were gasps as I eased away a piece of shaped hardboard, painted to look like the back of the cupboard."

"But when it came off it was just glued to the breeze blocks, which had been hastily put up with cement all over the place."

The doorway was blocked up a month before the couple sold their Hartlepool seaside homes in March.

Anne told some of her tale to The Daily Mirror during her plane flight from Atlanta to Manchester, England. With tears in her eyes, she talked about her and her husband's time in Panama, where the pair had lavish plans to live in a secret tropical estate and run an eco-friendly tourist resort.

She said, with a shrug of the shoulders and a gentle smile, "Well it was a nice dream while it lasted."

An ashen-faced Anne is shown sitting on the plane while telling the newspaper, "I'm feeling sick to my stomach. It's terrifying and I'm frightened. I've no idea of what lies ahead"

As the couple's story has unraveled, police have rejected media speculation that they are trying to protect their two sons.

According to Anne, her two sons, Mark and Anthony, knew nothing of the deceit and she fretted whether she could ever be reconciled with them again.

Detective Tony Superintendent Hutchinson told reporters today that there was nothing to suggest the couple's sons were anything other than victims of the suspected deception, adding that he felt "dreadfully sorry" for them. "They have believed for the past five years their father is dead."

The speculation about the sons was triggered by the revelation in The Daily Mail that the sons were shareholders of a property company their parents had set up in Panama.

The sons said last week they wanted no further contact with their parents after their mother told newspapers the photo of her and her husband taken together in Panama last year was genuine.

Hutchinson said at a police conference that the motive for Darwin's reappearance and earlier disappearance remained unknown. The police appealed for information on piecing together the lost years: "We need to know where Mr. and Mrs. Darwin have been both in Europe and North and South America. We need to know what they have been saying. We need to know who they have been with and we need to know what they have been doing."