It seems that the mortal death of a person is not enough for contemplation. Some people feel that they should contribute more: fake death. No one knows exactly how common the phenomenon of fake deaths is, because successful suspended animations naturally cannot enter statistics. Drowning has become a favorite way of “leave”, and the most attractive aspect of fake drowning death is that the dead body is not necessary, and often the dead body is the most difficult to fake. You only need to create a scene and guide the police towards the conclusion of drowning. A yacht accident, jumping from a bridge into a turbulent river is definitely the best solution. There is a famous drowning case: In order to get rid of business failure and start a new life with his mistress, John Stonehouse, a member of the British Parliament, drew inspiration from the spy novel “Days of the Jackal” and faked his own drowning death. Almost succeeded.
Escape the golden cicada
On a sunny afternoon in November 1974, in Miami, the tall and handsome Englishman John Stonehouse seemed to drown. Stonehouse and a business partner came to Miami’s luxury hotel Fontainebleau the day before. The two had a business lunch at noon the next day. After that, the 49-year-old congressman said to his companion: “I want to swim for a while, and then go to buy gifts for my wife and children.” The two agreed at 7 o’clock in the evening. Meet again at the hotel bar at 30 minutes.
The last time someone saw the British MP was at about 4 pm, when he was strolling on the hotel’s private beach, took off his coat and handed it to the hotel attendant, “The sea looks good.” He followed the oncoming passers-by. Saying hello, ran across the warm sand to the sea.
Stonehouse did not appear at the bar that night. The hotel attendant opened the room where Stonehouse was staying. Stonehouse’s passport, return ticket, watch, briefcase, suit and shirt, everything is still in place, even the car he rented is still parked in the hotel garage. Near midnight, hotel staff found Stonehouse’s neatly stacked pants and patterned shirts on the shelf of a locked beach hut.
The Miami police conducted an intensive search, but found nothing. They thought Stonehouse might have drowned. The first to be informed was Stonehouse’s wife, Barbara, who broke down when she answered the phone. The British government also received news that major newspapers began to prepare Stonehouse’s obituary.
Everything was proceeding according to Stonehouse’s plan. When the police trawled the net to search for his body, he had already flown to a new life in the sky. His destination is a country on the other side of the earth. On the day he was considered “drowning”, Stonehouse actually swam along the coast to a nearby hotel. The hotel was closed and there was no one inside. There was a phone booth in the hotel where he hid the day before. Some cash, a towel, a pair of shoes and a set of clothes.
Then he took a taxi to Miami Airport and retrieved a large suitcase and a black briefcase at the luggage storage office. The briefcase contained a plane ticket, some cash and a British passport with the name of Joseph Markham written on it. A week later, Stonehouse arrived in Australia-using Joseph Markham’s passport. He was pleasantly surprised to find that everything is so simple.
Why did Stonehouse decide to escape his life?
In 1969, John Stonehouse was in their country house with his first wife Barbara and children Julia and Matthew.
In the UK, Stonehouse has a country house in Hampshire, spacious and comfortable. But under the glamorous appearance, Stonehouse hides many secrets. The first is his extramarital affairs with secretary Sheila Barkley. Despite the 21-year difference in age, Sheila fell madly in love with her boss. Stonehouse’s wife, Barbara, met him at the age of 17, and soon realized his ills. Stonehouse himself said that this was his nature, and it seemed that he needed to change a lover every two or three years. Every time her husband had an extramarital affair, Barbara was heartbroken, and she had thought about leaving him many times. However, the happy time they spent together made it hard for her to give up. In any case, Stonehouse was a good father, and he obviously didn’t want a divorce. Since getting married at the age of 23, Stonehouse has been dependent on his wife. Barbara’s calmness and strength have laid the foundation for her husband’s smooth sailing in the political arena. But Barbara didn’t know that his secretary posed a real threat to their marriage.
Stonehouse has a second, more shameful secret: Since the early 1960s, he has been employed by a government in Central Europe to engage in espionage activities. It was not until a few years after his death that the country’s intelligence files were declassified that Stonehouse’s betrayal was made public. In 1957, shortly after he became a member of Parliament, the captain of the Central European State Secret Service, Vlad Kudelka, caught up with Stonehouse. Why did a center-left congressman who has been regarded as the star of tomorrow become a spy at the risk of imprisonment and ruin?
Stonehouse never intended to be a spy. If someone asked him directly if he wanted to be a spy, he would refuse without hesitation. However, he was slowly and skillfully pulled into the water by others, and was paid more than £5,000.
In fact, Stonehouse is also facing a financial crisis. He insisted on the best in everything, and all three children went to the most expensive private school. Gradually, he began to realize that he could no longer afford such a luxurious lifestyle, especially as the Labor Party was about to fail in the next general election. Stonehouse himself registered several companies. In 1972, a group of Bangladeshi businessmen invited him to serve as the chairman of the British Bengal Trust Company. The original intention of the trust company was to provide investment services to Bangladesh, but soon the market entered a downturn, stock prices fell and financial management was poor, which quickly became a burden that Stonehouse could not bear.
Stonehouse’s fledgling business is also in trouble. According to the memories of his children, at home, he could often hear his father being angry and slamming the door when he was on the phone. Stonehouse tried to use his own money to support the Bangladesh Trust. He transferred cash between the two companies. Soon, he fell into despair. The company auditor began to ask him questions that he could not hide, and the Ministry of Trade and Industry began to investigate his business affairs. At the same time, a British electrical engineer, also a spy recruited by the aforementioned Central European countries, was tried and sentenced to 12 years in prison. New anxiety hung over Stonehouse’s heart, he was desperate, and the specter of bankruptcy and destruction was approaching him more and more. So he began to formulate his own bold plan to “escape the golden cicada”.
Extramarital affairs exposed
Stonehouse borrowed from the setting in the best-selling novel “The Days of the Jackal” published in 1971, in which the British killer borrowed the identity of a deceased person of his age. To be on the safe side, Stonehouse decided to borrow two. Instead of looking for the latest tombstone along the way like the killer in the book, he contacted a hospital in his district. He explained to the hospital that, as a local councillor, he needs the names and addresses of women whose husbands have recently passed away so that he can allocate some charity funds.
From this list, Stonehouse selected two men who were about his age and who had recently passed away-Joseph Markham and Donald Milden. After that, Stonehouse visited their widows. He walked into their home with a charming smile, claiming that he was investigating the widow’s pension and taxes, with the goal of improving their welfare. The two widows immediately provided the congressman with the deceased husband’s birth certificate and all the information needed to apply for a passport in their name.
Next, Stonehouse began to launder money through poorly operating companies. By November 1974, he had defrauded 1 million pounds, most of which were loans and overdrafts that he never intended to repay. These moneys were deposited into overseas bank accounts in the names of Markham and Milden. .
Stonehouse didn’t want his family to be impoverished. At that time, there was an IRA bomb attack at Heathrow Airport. His car was destroyed in the explosion. Taking this as an opportunity, he bought 5 life insurances to pay. The amount is as high as £119,000, and the beneficiary of the insurance is his wife Barbara.
After deciding to destination in Australia, he sent a suitcase containing personal belongings to Melbourne. Now he has made all the preparations for the evaporation of the world.
A week after Stonehouse disappeared, Barbara was convinced that her husband could not be alive. In order to comfort the three children-25, 23 and 14 years old at the time, she could not indulge in extreme sadness. In 26 years of marriage, Stonehouse told her every day that he loves her. Putting aside his dewy emotions that didn’t last long, she had no reason to doubt him.
Stonehouse and his secretary Sheila Barkley are 21 years old.
Sheila Barkley, photo taken around 1980.
However, the British media do not believe that this handsome member of Parliament has been buried deep in a grave under the sea. First, his business has been poorly managed. Second, a reporter found an apartment in London rented under Stonehouse’s name and learned from a neighbor that his secretary Sheila was still living there not long ago. Some reports even suggest that Stonehouse’s marriage is in jeopardy.
These reports are unbearable for Barbara. She asked the lawyer to issue a statement stating that her husband did not worry about money before he disappeared, that there were no other women or men in his life, he was completely loyal to his wife, and that he was not the kind of person who would cause pain to his family. As for the apartment, it was only their second residence and office. Because of its proximity to the council, Sheila occasionally worked for Stonehouse there, and paid him rent for the accommodation.
However, in private, Barbara knew that her husband had cheated again, and she found Sheila and confronted her. The secretary burst into tears and admitted to having an extramarital affair with Stonehouse for a year, and said that she thought she might be pregnant (and later found out that she was not).
Soon, Barbara had something worse to worry about-the press discovered that the only beneficiary of the five life insurance policies was Barbara. So rumors spread that she somehow killed Stonehouse. Just then the phone rang, bringing even more surprising news.
Arrested in Australia
After leaving Miami, Stonehouse stayed in Hawaii for 5 days, visited local attractions and called her lover Sheila twice. In fact, Sheila, who wept bitterly in front of Barbara, was the only person in the world who knew Stonehouse was still alive. After a week in the Atlantic Ocean, Stonehouse arrived in Australia-using Joseph Markham’s passport. He was pleasantly surprised to find that all this is so simple. In order to cut all the clues, he decided to use Markham’s identity to travel, and to use Donald Milden’s identity in daily life.
In Melbourne, Stonehouse is very low-key, wearing sunglasses that can almost cover half of his face and a bowler hat. But soon after, he made a fatal mistake. In order to cover up his tracks, he had previously opened different bank accounts in the names of Milden and Markham. After renting an apartment in Melbourne, he withdrew US$22,000 from the Bank of South Wales, then walked to the Bank of New Zealand not far away and deposited it in Milden’s name.
Everything should be fine, but the staff of the Bank of South Wales happened to be going to have lunch when they happened to find that the Englishman had gone to a neighboring bank with the money he had just withdrawn. She felt something strange, so she reported it to the manager. When the managers of the two banks touched, they found that the British had two identities, so they called the police.
When Stonehouse wandered the streets of Melbourne, he didn’t know that he had been followed. The police even set up a monitoring station near his apartment, and they suspected Stonehouse was engaged in some kind of bank fraud. However, all they could be sure was that he sent a letter to “Ms. Black” (actually Sheila).
In March 1976, John Stonehouse was interviewed by the media.
In 1979, John Stonehouse rushed to the waiting car as he left Norwich prison.
In 1975, John Stonehouse and Sheila Buckley were in Australia.
Julia Stonehouse authored the book “John Stonehouse, My Father: The True Story of the Fugitive Senator.”
It may not be wise to write to Sheila, but Sheila was indeed in a bad state at the time. After being frank with Stonehouse’s wife, she learned that he had had several lovers before, and after reading the newspaper report, she discovered several other lovers of his. “I was trembling with anger,” Sheila wrote to him, “you can imagine how shocked I was to discover that the same thing you have said to your wife for nearly 30 years.”
Melbourne detectives tried to figure out who Milden and Markham were. For a while, they thought he might be Lord Lucan, and he disappeared 12 days before Stonehouse. Lord Lucan hid in the basement and wanted to kill his wife, but disappeared after accidentally killing the child’s nanny. He has disappeared forever, whether he is dead or alive, he has never reappeared so far.
When the police searched Stonehouse’s apartment in Melbourne, they accidentally found a box of matches in the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami-this was another fatal mistake Stonehouse made, and everything became clear. As soon as Stonehouse was seated in the train carriage, he was suddenly held down by the police and handcuffed to the police station for questioning. He soon had to admit that he was Stonehouse. The police accused him of entering the country illegally, but later discovered that he could not be deported because British MPs could enter Australia without a travel document.
Stonehouse asked for a call, and he called Barbara. “Is that you, John?” she asked in a faint voice, full of suspicion. The police recorded the conversation. “In Miami I decided to give up my identity,” Stonehouse told his wife, “The pressure was too great. I can’t bear it anymore. Everyone is looking for me. They all want me to be a scapegoat for those bad things. There is no way to live. Going down… I can only say sorry, I misled you… Could you please give Sheila a call, you two come to Australia as soon as possible.”
Stonehouse made a heartless request. Of course, Barbara could not bring his mistress to Australia, but she decided to fly to Melbourne alone to reunite with her husband. The British government was shocked by the reappearance of Stonehouse and decided to launch a formal investigation of his company, but this may take up to 6 months. However, if the British government cannot provide the Australian government with specific criminal charges, it cannot apply for extradition, and Stonehouse is applying for permanent residency in Australia. Not only that, he also refused to resign because if he were not a member of the British Parliament, he would be expelled from Australia. What makes the British government even more worried is that he may escape to a country that has no extradition treaty with the United Kingdom. In fact, their worries were right. Stonehouse applied to enter Bangladesh, Sweden and Mauritius, but they were all unsuccessful.
Sheila is eager to reunite with Stonehouse. She also flew to Australia, arriving a few hours later than Barbara. After Sheila arrived in Melbourne, Stonehouse placed her in an apartment. As far as Sheila is concerned, she is ready to accept any request made by Stonehouse-including maintaining a marriage with Barbara. Things culminated in Easter 1975 when Stonehouse took his two women on a picnic by the lake.
The initial conversation was very polite, but Barbara’s patience suddenly disappeared: “I can’t tolerate that girl in our lives!” Stonehouse also became emotional: “I can’t let you go, Barbara. Bara, if you leave me, I will commit suicide!” After speaking, he ran towards the lake. Barbara and Sheila both followed him, for fear that he would jump off the dam. However, Stonehouse stopped when he reached the lake. He turned around, took a few steps forward, and fell into Sheila’s arms. Barbara later said that at that moment, she realized that he had made a choice. A few days later, she returned to England.
A few weeks later, Stonehouse and his lover were extradited and arrived in London on July 19, 1975. They were taken directly to the London court when they got off the plane. Stonehouse faced charges of fraud and theft. This is the beginning of a long lawsuit. Anyone in this situation of Stonehouse will keep a low profile and avoid drawing attention. But Stonehouse was still a member of Congress after he was released on bail, and he spoke in the House of Commons more than ever in the following year. At least on the surface, everything seems to be back to normal. He told Barbara that he had been on the verge of emotional breakdown and was unable to act rationally in order to persuade his wife to let him live with her again. Barbara was ready to forgive him for everything.
Stonehouse assured the media and the public that he was innocent time and time again. He said that this happened because he had a dual personality, one of his ego was replaced by another. This may be a life-saving straw, but a psychiatrist diagnosed and he was telling the truth. While still in Australia, Stonehouse began to meet regularly with a psychiatrist who reported that Stonehouse had two personalities-himself and Joseph Markham. Stonehouse was under too much pressure to allow Markham to take over his life. Is it really a split personality? Or is it the solution that Stonehouse, with an IQ of 140, found for himself? No one can give a definite answer.
Stonehouse’s case was finally heard in April 1976. The day before the trial, Stonehouse fired his lawyer and announced that he was defending himself. The jury finally found all charges guilty. The judge announced that Stonehouse was sentenced to 7 years in prison.
After the trial, Barbara and Stonehouse divorced. Sheila went to the prison to visit her lover once every two weeks within the allowed range. In prison, Stonehouse suffered multiple heart attacks. After serving three years in prison in 1979, he was released for health reasons. Stonehouse married Sheila in 1981, and Sheila gave birth to a son the following year. Stonehouse took care of the children at home, and Sheila went out to continue working as a secretary. During this period, Stonehouse wrote three thrillers. Stonehouse died of a heart attack in 1988 at the age of 62 and appeared on a TV chat shortly before his death.
Advances in technology have made it more difficult to pretend to die than ever before. Ubiquitous surveillance, biometrics, DNA testing, digital database, etc., have made it harder and less cost-effective to separate yourself and become someone else. Up. Now, even Google knows your schedule. Therefore, Stonehouse’s case has become a classic guide to the evaporating world.