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Con artist who faked his own death now bankrolled by wife 23 years his junior

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A con artist who was jailed for faking his own death in a canoeing accident has settled down with his new wife in Philipines.

John Darwin, 70, and bride Mercy May, 47, moved out of Manila to a property around 30 minutes away.

The mum-of-three sub-lets her clothing stall in the city's market and runs another retail venture, reports The Mirror.

Darwin still receives a UK state pension of around £134 a week, and it's believed the couple let the property next door to their new abode.

Mercy May said: “I have a new business. I’ve had it for three years now. Boom. Making money.”

Darwin's first wife, Anne, reported him missing after he went canoeing near their home in Seaton Carew, Cleavland, back in 2002.

She claimed £679,000 in pensions and insurance payouts and the pair bought and moved to a property in Panama.

Darwin was sent behind bars for six years and Anne six-and-a-half years following the scam.

Darwin and Mercy May wed in 2015 after an online romance, but couldn't settle in the UK due to immigration issues.

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The Philippines has had two coronavirus lockdowns and travel restricted, but Mercy described life as "almost back to normal".

Travel in the country is still restricted though.

Mercy May added: “We can’t get vacation. Any provinces need… [a] medical certificate and travel permit.”

She said the Philippines government has told citizens that a vaccine is on the way.

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She said: “It says May, June or July here. Senior is a priority. Maybe John – not me. We can go out but we need to wear a face mask and a face shield.”

She added: “The variant virus from your country is here now.”

Darwin and Anne's scam was uncovered after he arrived at a London police station in 2007 claiming he lost his memory.

He told officers he was suffering from amnesia and Anne pretended she didn't know he was alive.

Their two adult sons, Mark, 45, and Anthony, 42, weren't aware of the scam and were led to believe he was dead.

Darwin had lived in a secret room in their seaside home and applied for a new passport in the name of a baby who died.

Darwin was released in 2011 but broke the terms of his parole in 2013 by travelling to Ukraine to meet Anna Avramenko, a 25-year-old he had met on a foreign brides’ website.

Anne, 67, now lives a quiet life near York, and reconciled with her sons Mark and Anthony.

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