TEN years ago, this week, one of the most remarkable news stories in recent history broke when missing Hartlepool man John Darwin appeared live and well at a London police station.

The former prison officer and keen kayaker disappeared off the coast of Seaton Carew in 2002, when his kayak was found broken up into three different pieces on North Gare beach.

Darwin was presumed drowned when his yellow waterproof jacket was recovered after a 16-hour sea rescue mission.

At the time of her husband’s disappearance, his wife Anne said: "The view from my window is a daily reminder. This was to be the house of our dreams and I have just got to look out and not dwell on the tragedy.”

But on December 1, 2007, Darwin walked into a London police station and uttered the now infamous words: "I think I'm a missing person."

Questions soon arose about his account of his 'lost' five and a half years and it was not long before he and his wife Anne were arrested.

It turned out the couple had hatched a plan to fake his death in a life insurance scam, and move to Panama with their cash.

In July 2008, the couple were each jailed for more than six years for their "callous and calculated" crime, which deceived both their sons.

Following the case, Detective Inspector Andy Greenwood, who described the couple as "financially greedy", said that to put the Darwins' sons, Mark and Anthony, through the turmoil of believing their father was dead for five-and-a-half years was "appalling".

He said they had gone through a particularly horrendous sequence of events.

But speculation grew as to why Darwin returned from Panama and walked into a London police station and declared: "I think I'm a missing person. " The judge who heard the case against the couple, from Seaton Carew and formerly of Witton Gilbert, said he believed the former prison officer longed to see his sons, Mark and Anthony. Other theories include the Darwins having a blazing row, or having affairs, or visa problems.

In other news that week, it was revealed that a Darlington cancer patient left behind a lasting legacy securing revolutionary new treatment for NHS patients.

Dave Hill lost his cancer battle after his case persuaded health bosses to perform a U-turn over the supply of the drug Tarceva.

The Darlington patient's dedication meant every North-East lung cancer patient who might have benefited from the drug got it.

Family friend Geoff Marsh told The Northern Echo: "He knew he was going to die at some point, but he was happy that he had helped others."

  • Canoe man: Ten years on. A series of special reports starts Wednesday in The Northern Echo.