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Canoe man's sons fear 'huge scam'

  • Story Highlights
  • Missing man's sons say they will denounce parents if fraud allegations true
  • Reports say wife knew missing man had been alive all along
  • John Darwin, 57, was thought to have drowned at sea
  • Five years later he reappears claiming to have suffered amnesia
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By CNN's Paul Willis
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The two sons of a British man who suddenly reappeared five years after he was thought to have drowned at sea said Thursday they feared they may have been the victims of a "huge scam" carried out by their own parents.

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Darwin was arrested late Tuesday in the southern English county of Hampshire.

Police on Thursday were preparing to question John Darwin, 57, after he was moved to a police station in northeastern England late Wednesday following his arrest on suspicion of fraud, a spokesman for Cleveland Police, the force investigating the case said.

In a joint statement released by police, Darwin's sons, Mark, 31, and Anthony, 29, said they were in an "angry and confused state of mind" and they wanted no further contact with their parents.

Following media reports Thursday that Darwin's wife Anne had confessed to knowing her husband was alive, the sons said: "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."

Anne Darwin was tracked down by reporters to her new Central American home in Panama City where she moved six weeks ago.

The British tabloid newspaper the Daily Mirror reported that Mrs. Darwin broke down crying when she was shown a photograph, which appeared to show her posing with her husband in the Panamanian capital last year.

Reacting to the photo, Mrs. Darwin, who had earlier said in a statement released through her sons that she had not seen her husband in the last five years, said "my sons are never going to forgive me," the paper reported. Watch report on wife's admissions. Video

"In the short space of time following our dad's appearance in London on Saturday, we have gone through a rollercoaster of emotion," said the sons' statement, released through Cleveland Police, the force investigating the case.

"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," it added.

"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," the statement went on.

John Darwin walked into at a police station in London over the weekend five years after he was thought to have died after the remains of a canoe he paddled into the North Sea off the coast of Seaton Carew in northeastern England washed up on shore.

A spokesman for Cleveland Police told CNN Thursday that Darwin had undergone medical tests and had been deemed fit to be questioned. The questioning was expected to go ahead in the next few hours, police said.

Following his reappearance, Darwin was reunited with his two sons, who released a joint statement saying their father claimed to have amnesia dating back to June 2000.

When Darwin showed up at a police station in central London on Saturday, he told officers he was suffering from amnesia, Detective Superintendent Tony Hutchinson, of Cleveland Police said.

Hutchinson said Darwin, dubbed "the canoe man" by British media, told officers he had no memory of the last five years. The detective said he appeared to be "good health, tanned, well-nourished and dressed."

"Nobody was more surprised than I when he walked into that police station in London," Hutchinson said.

The Daily Mirror reported that Mrs. Darwin would not say how often or when her husband made contact with her after his supposed disappearance, but that she acknowledged they had spent time together in Panama, including a number of short vacations there.

The manager of a holiday firm in Panama said the couple rented a room in the Panamanian capital and agreed to pose for the picture for the company's Web site, the Daily Mirror reported. Video Watch the police request for information on Darwin. »

Anne Darwin said she collected life insurance payouts on her husband and sold the couple's family properties for £400,000 ($820,000 US), the Daily Mail newspaper reported Wednesday.

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Darwin, a prison officer and former teacher, was declared dead by a coroner in 2003, 13 months after his disappearance.

At the time he went missing, a massive air and sea rescue operation was launched in March 2002.

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Within 24 hours, the kayak paddle was recovered by police near the area where he was thought to have disappeared and, two months later, the remains of his kayak washed up on the coast.

Hutchinson said there had been one alleged sighting of Darwin in his home town in 2005. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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