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Missing man's wife knew he was alive, she says

A wife of a man who was missing for five years said that she was sure he had been alive and that a photo of the two taken last year in Panama was authentic, British newspapers reported Thursday.

Anne Darwin's purported confession came as police in northeast England prepared to question her 57-year-old husband John, who has claimed to have amnesia. Police declared Darwin, who was arrested early Wednesday on suspicion he may have faked his death, medically fit to be interviewed.

Anne Darwin, who now lives in Panama, 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, that her husband contacted her and revealed he was still alive, the newspapers said. She would not say when or how he made contact.

John Darwin may have turned himself in because he was tipped police were closing in on the scam, said police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The Darwins' two sons said in a statement Thursday they want nothing to do with their parents if Anne Darwin's apparent confession proved accurate.

"If the papers' allegations of a confession from our mam (mother) are true, then we very much feel that we have been the victims in a large scam," the statement said. "How could our mam continue to let us believe our dad had died when he was very much alive?

"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."

Anne Darwin, 55, said her husband has not been in Panama for all of the last five years, but that the couple had rented a villa for a brief holiday and that's when a real estate agent took their photo and posted it on his Web site.

She 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."

John Darwin came to the attention of police again in the last few months after his wife was overheard by an acquaintance speaking to him on the phone, the police official said. That acquaintance has been in contact with detectives for some time.

At the same time police were alerted to suspicious credit card applications.

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."

Anne Darwin acknowledged she could face prosecution in Britain, but said she planned to return and was consulting a lawyer.

"I don't want to live my life as a fugitive," she was quoted as saying.

After the initial joy of being reunited with their father, Anthony and Mark Darwin are now "angry and confused."

"In the short space of time following our dad's appearance in London on Saturday, we have gone through a roller coaster of emotion," the statement said. "From the height of elation at finding him to be alive to the depths of despair at the recent stories of fraud and these latest pictures. And the shock of being thrust into the media spotlight."

Darwin was working as a prison officer when he disappeared in March 2002, his wife saying he apparently took his canoe into the North Sea. It was later found wrecked on a beach.

A coroner officially declared him dead. Police have appealed for information from anyone who has information on John Darwin's whereabouts since his disappearance.

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