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Googling Beyond the Grave

If you’ve ever done basic genealogy online, you know that Google can be used to find the dead. But did you know that Google can find the “un”dead? (No, I don’t mean zombies.)

In March 2002, John Darwin went missing during a canoing trip “within sight of his home.” He never returned and the following year, he was officially declared dead.

Until an unidentified woman googled him. Suspicious of the whole story, she found him alive and well in Argentina Panama City, in a photograph dated 2006. With his wife.

As it turned out, John Darwin didn’t die on a canoe trip. But he did allow his family, friends and government to think he was dead. “Years later,” says his wife, Anne, he contacted his wife to let her know he was alive. She moved to Panama six weeks ago.

The anonymous woman googled “John, Anne and Panama” and found the picture, which she sent to police and the Guardian. They report that John walked into a London police station over the weekend and told them “I think I am a missing person.” He was arrested on charges of fraud (y’think?). The police plan to validate the picture. Because, y’know, having him in custody isn’t enough evidence that he faked his own death.

His wife is still in Panama. Their sons, who didn’t know their father was alive until they saw it on the news, told Sky News that they have no desire to speak to their parents now.

The moral of the story: if you’re going to drop off the grid, drop off the Internet, too. Google will find you.



  1. [...] This story about a missing man who was found is a little bit creepy. But it does illustrate the power of search. The search terms used to find this man and his wife in Panama were rather obscure. She simply Google two first names and the name of a country. She found the “missing person” in a city within that country just hanging out with his wife. [...]