BACK-from-the-dead canoe conman John Darwin is suffering from skin cancer, a national newspaper has reported.

The fraudster is said to have undergone surgery after contracting the illness, which doctors said was caused by exposure to the sun – possibly during his time spent in Panama.

He told the Sunday Mirror: “I do have skin cancer. I've had an operation. Did I get it in Panama? Well, I’ve been told that it was caused by intense sunlight.”

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Mr Darwin was jailed for a life insurance scam when he faked his own death in a con that made him, and his wife Anne, more than £1m.

He was last seen in 2002 paddling into the North Sea in a canoe near their home in Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, before disappearing. A death certificate was issued after his wrecked canoe was found.

In 2007 he appeared at a police station in London, claiming he’d lost his memory and could not remember where he had been.

However a photograph taken with his wife Anne in Mexico the previous year proved they had cooked up the scam between them. They had spent much of the five years together in Panama.

Even their grown-up sons did not know that their father was still alive and living in a bedsit next door to the family home, accessed through a wardrobe. The couple were convicted of fraud in 2008 and jailed for six years, but both were freed in 2011.

The couple are now estranged but are understood to have rebuilt their relationships with their sons.