British 'dead man' caught in Australia

3rd November 2011, Comments 0 comments

A British man who allegedly faked his own death and made off with the life insurance payout has been arrested in Australia, police said Thursday, ending a six-year manhunt.

Hugo Jose Sanchez, 47, also known as Alfredo, was taken into Australian Federal Police custody overnight in Sydney, the force said.

Ecuadorian-born Sanchez and his wife Sophie allegedly faked his death to claim more than one million pounds ($1.6 million) in life insurance in 2005, but the plot reportedly unravelled after Sanchez's fingerprints were found on his own death certificate.

Sanchez's wife was arrested after returning to Britain for her sister's wedding last September and later sentenced to two years in jail for her role in the scheme.

The pair are not the first Britons to try such a scam -- former teacher John Darwin made international headlines after faking his disappearance in a canoe in northeast England in 2002 so his wife Anne could claim his life insurance.

Darwin turned up alive in 2007, five years after his alleged death and after the couple purchased property in Panama. They were each sentenced to six years' imprisonment in 2008.

In perhaps Britain's best-known faked death, former government minister John Stonehouse, later revealed to have been a Communist spy, left a heap of his clothes on a Miami beach in 1974.

He was discovered in Australia and arrested on Christmas Eve that year by police who ordered him to drop his pants, believing he could be another missing Briton, Lord Lucan, who had a large scar on his inner thigh.

Stonehouse was sentenced to seven years' jail but only served part of his term after suffering three heart attacks.

Sanchez made a brief court appearance Thursday and his lawyer said he would not be opposing his extradition to Britain, according to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

He was refused bail and will return to court in a fortnight.

© 2011 AFP

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