People Who Tried to Get Away with a Fake Death!
Imagine you’ve cornered the market on selling knock off postage stamps. Regular stamps, vintage stamps, stamps for kids, it’s all fair game! You are making, well, not tons of money because the stamp market isn’t as lucrative as it once was, but you are making a decent profit. The only problem is that the United States Postal Service has caught on to you.
Someone sold you out and now you need to disappear fast. Postal workers already have a reputation for being grumpy. Who can blame them? They work six days a week. But you have really made them disgruntled. Fleets of mail trucks and armies of mail satchel carrying soldiers are out for blood. The only way out: fake your own death.
Why would someone fake their own death?
“How hard can it be?” you think. Faking one’s death goes all the way back to the Talmud. The book of Jewish Laws dates from around the fifth century AD. It shows that the idea of faking your own death is nothing new. And ever since the mid 1800’s when life insurance was introduced to the world, people have been trying to fake their own death to collect on their policies. Faking deaths can be a lucrative business, maybe even more lucrative than selling forged stamps.
You decide to do a little research to find the best way to go about faking your own death. If caught for forging postage stamps you could be sentenced to five years in prison and fined for all the fake stamps. But that’d be nothing compared to what the angry postal workers would do. They could tie you up, stick stamps all over your entire body, and ship you to the North Pole, without a return address! “No way!” you think, “It’s way too cold up there with Santa and his reindeer.” You’ve got to disappear and for good.
What if you faked your death in a plane crash?
It could happen right? You’re out for a flight in your private jet, paid for with counterfeit stamp profits. You do some research to see if it has been done before. Sure enough you find a story about a man named Marcus Schrenker, who was having all kinds of legal problems. He was stealing from investors and forging signatures at his business.
Schrenker took off from an Indiana airport and was flying to Florida when he sent out a distress call. Moments later reports started coming in of a plane crash near Schrenker’s last known location. Schrenker was reported dead, but his body was never found. The police were suspicious because of his legal troubles.
They sent detectives to locations that Schrenker had been seen before the crash. Eventually they found him. He was roasting marshmallows over an open fire at a campground in Florida. Apparently he had jumped out of the plane after calling in the distress call. He pulled the ripcord on his parachute and gently glided down, watching as his plane crashed.
“Well he got caught by the police, so that didn’t work out so great for Schrenker,” you think. Plus you kind of want your private jet intact after you fake your own death, so that you can still travel the world. It would do you no good if you crashed it and your fastest mode of transportation was consumed in a fiery wreck. Let’s try something else.
Death by rebels?
You often go on exotic vacations using funds from your imitation stamp operation and posing as a courier. Again something the postal service wants to hunt you down for. They take impersonating a postal worker very seriously. “Maybe I can fly to a semi dangerous country with political unrest. I can pay someone to claim I’ve been killed by rebels.” You are full of schemes. You start doing research into faking your own death through being killed by militant rebels.
Sure enough you come across a story about Gandaruban Subramaniam, a 60-year-old Singaporean businessman. He was being sued by creditors because his rental car business failed. To escape the debt collectors Subramaniam had his wife claim he had been killed by Tamil Tiger rebels.
This allowed her to collect on three life-insurance policies. After the money was collected, Subramaniam moved to Singapore using a fake passport. Authorities eventually located him and tried him for insurance fraud. It probably would have been easier just to pay off the debt.
Faking Death By Murder
“Death by rebels? Fake passports? That’s a lot of work,” you think. If you’re going to fake die, you want it to be in a little more style. And a lot easier. Maybe being killed by rebels is too extravagant. What about just faking a murder? “Yeah that could work,” you muse.
Then you find a story about a Music Row attorney named William Grothe. He faked his own murder and then posed as his murderer. He parked his car in a rural location and waited a couple days. Then he phoned the authorities saying he had killed William Grothe and where to find the evidence. He must have been laughing to himself as he hung up the payphone, thinking he had pulled one over on the cops.
The police found this series of events just slightly suspicious. Why would the murderer give himself away? Upon investigation and acting on what the “murderer” said, the police found the possessions of William Grothe scattered near a riverbank. It seemed almost too obvious that they were the belongings of William Grothe.
Every single item had identification with them. They later found and sentenced Grothe. He had a one million dollar life insurance policy he was getting ready to collect on. Grothe probably should have just stuck with being a lawyer instead of a faking his murder.
Fake Death by Cremation
“Note to self. Maybe a murder would work, but don’t pose as your own murderer,” you say out loud. This “fake your own death” thing is complicated. It seems that when fake dying, the body or lack thereof, seems to always be a hiccup in the plan. What if you could make sure that there was no body and that no one would even expect to find one? What if you could fake your own death by cremation?
“That’s it!” you exclaim. You’re sure no one has tried faking their death by cremation before. I mean it’s perfect. There is no body to find. You just get a bunch of ash and put it in an urn and you’re good to go. You decided to just check real quick to see if anyone could possibly be as brilliant as you are. Then you stumble onto the story of Alfredo Sanchez.
Alfredo Sanchez was deep in credit card debt and defaulting on his loans. He and his wife plotted to fake his death and cremation. Sanchez’s wife called his employer saying that he had died of a heart attack and had been cremated, as his will had specified. She then began collecting on her late husband’s insurance and pension.
Wedding news after a cremation…
The company hired an investigator after hearing rumors that Alfredo Sanchez was still alive. They eventually found him living in Australia. The kicker was they discovered him because he had remarried his wife in Australia and was located by the investigator after his wedding day.
“Good thing I’m not married!” you chuckle. But then again, who would trust enough to lie to everyone that you had died and been cremated? Also, would the police be able to tell if the ash in the urn was from a burnt log instead of a burnt body? This seems very complicated even for a mastermind like you.
You ponder other ways to fake your own death. Well if fire and cremation is too complicated let’s try the opposite. What about faking your death by water? What if you faked a drowning? You dive into research around accounts of people who faked their death by drowning. Those tedious postal workers will never catch you if your body is thought to be at the bottom of the ocean!
You come across a few accounts of people who have faked death by drowning. John Darwin was claimed to have drowned to death while kayaking. He was facing possible bankruptcy and needed a way out. But there was a breakdown in communication between John and his wife.
Apparently, he called her to drop him off at a train station, just before she called the police to report him missing from drowning. Later John Darwin walked into the police station claiming he thought he was just considered a missing person. The law didn’t buy it. It is always important to get your stories straight when faking your own death.
Another faked drowning was of someone of slightly more notoriety. John Stonehouse, a former member of British Parliament, faked his death by drowning so he could start a new life with his mistress. “The things we do for love,” you think. But this fake drowning gets even more interesting. He was later found in Australia operating under the name Joseph Markham, which was the name of the dead husband of a constituent.
A happy ending…not really
Stonehouse was arrested for operating a fraudulent business and served three years in jail. When he was released, he immediately married his mistress, who had waited for him to get out of jail. Really, the things we do for love. The craziest part of the whole story is that it was later discovered Stonehouse was a Communist spy! “What a wild story,” you sigh. You’re not sure drowning is the best way to fake your own death anymore. What if all your other dark secrets come to light if you get caught? Other than just the forged stamp thing of course.
Dying of cancer
How about dying of a disease? Faking death by cancer? That’d be messed up because of how terrible the disease is. So messed up it could work. You do a little further research. You find that faking your death by cancer has been tried before.
A woman by the name of Allison Matera told her church choir she was dying of cancer. Of course the members were devastated and tried to make her as comfortable as possible. When Matera was claimed to be in hospice, the choir members began receiving calls from a woman claiming to be a nurse to give them updates. The odd thing was that the nurse sounded remarkably similar to Allison herself.
When they received a call claiming that Allison Matera had died, the caller also sounded very similar to the deceased. It became obvious that something was not quite right when a woman who bore a very close resemblance to Allison was at the funeral. When police confronted Allison Matera she admitted to faking her own death because she had attachment issues and wanted to drive her choir friends away. “That’s crazy. Not even I would stoop that low,” you say.
A digital fake death?
Maybe you’re missing something. Maybe there is an easier way to fake your own death and get away with it. I mean this is the age of the internet and technology. Could you fake your own death with something as simple as a text? Something like: Hi USPS, it’s me, the guy you’re after for selling all those fake stamps, I’m dead so there’s no reason to look for me. Thanks, bye. I mean is it really that crazy?
You use your smartphone to see if it’s been done before. Apparently a woman named Dianne Craven texted her boyfriend that she had died. Craven posed as her brother and told her boyfriend that she had died from a brain aneurysm. But then three months after her supposed passing, Dianne’s boyfriend saw a picture of her online. Somehow you feel like texting the Postal Service that you had died probably wouldn’t work. Social media makes it really difficult to stay dead if your death was faked.
It’s a crazy world!
After researching all of these crazy stories about people faking their own death and being caught, you decide it’d just be better to turn yourself in. The police would protect you from the United States Postal Service workers. You head to the authorities and tell them the whole story. They look at you with a shocked expression, as you explain your whole counterfeit stamp operation.
You tell them it’s been a wild ride and that you want to turn over a new leaf. The officer in charge looks at you with a frown. He shakes his head and says, “those people at the postal service can be really scary. I mean they work six days a week no matter what the weather is. When they find you, they are going to make your life miserable. You probably should have just faked your own death.”
What do you think the craziest way to fake your own death would be? Let us know in the comments!