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A faked death, also called a "staged death" and pseudocide, is a case in which an individual leaves evidence to suggest that they are dead to mislead others. This is done for a variety of reasons, such as to fraudulently collect insurance money, to avoid capture by law enforcement for some other crime, escape from being held hostage by abductors or as a practical prank.
There are several how-to books on the subject of faking one's death, including How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found.
Notable faked deaths
- John Stonehouse, a British politician who faked his own suicide by drowning to escape financial difficulties and live with his mistress. He was discovered in Australia – where police initially thought he might be Lord Lucan – and jailed.
- "Lord" Timothy Dexter, an eccentric 18th-century New England businessman who faked his own death to see how people would react. His wife did not shed any tears at the wake, and as a result he caned her for not being sufficiently saddened at his passing.
- John Darwin, a former teacher and prison officer from Hartlepool, England faked his own death on 21 March 2002 by canoeing out to sea and disappearing. His ruse fell apart in 2006 when a simple Google search revealed a photo of him buying a house in Panama.
- Marcus Schrenker, a financial manager from Fishers, Indiana, was charged with defrauding clients, and attempted to fake his own death to avoid prosecution. He was captured following a multi-state, three-day manhunt.
- Samuel Israel III, an American hedge fund manager who was facing twenty years in prison for fraud, left his car and a suicide note on the Bear Mountain Bridge in an attempted fake suicide in 2008. He later surrendered himself to authorities. It was always suspected that his suicide was faked since, among other things, passersby reported that a car had picked someone up on the bridge from near Israel's abandoned car.
- Charles Mulet, a corrupt Louisiana policeman, had been accused of molesting a teenage girl in 1988. Mulet left his truck alongside a bridge and sent a note to his police department. The suicide was ruled inconclusive after police failed to find a corpse in the river, and a hiker reported to police a man opening fire on him without warning, whose description matched Mulet's. The case being profiled on Unsolved Mysteries led to Mulet's capture.
- David Friedland, a former New Jersey senator, faked his own death via scuba-diving accident in 1985 while awaiting trial on racketeering charges.
- Francisco Paesa, agent of Centro Nacional de Inteligencia, the Spanish secret service. In 1998 he faked a fatal cardiac arrest in Thailand, after tricked Luis Roldán, known for being the general of the Spanish Civil Guard when a big scandal of corruption arose in 1993, into stealing all the money that Roldán had previously stolen in that case. He appeared in 2004. During these years, he opened an offshore company, as it was exposed thanks to Panama Papers.
- Arkady Babchenko, a Russian journalist living in Ukraine who in 2018 faked his own assassination, which was widely reported in the international press, as part of a sting operation aimed at exposing an agent sent to kill him. Babchenko's appearance at a press conference the day after his "death" caused an international sensation.
Faked deaths in fiction
- The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin
- The Art of Love
- Romeo and Juliet
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
- The Outsider (1953) by Richard Wright takes up the story of Cross Damon, who survives a subway accident but leaves his coat on another man's severely disfigured corpse. Investigators assume it is Cross' body, and he takes the opportunity to escape his previous life.
- The Rash Act (1933) by Ford Madox Ford is about a man who stages a suicide and uses it to reinvent himself.
- In The Adventure of the Empty House, Sherlock Holmes re-appears to Dr. Watson several years after his presumed death grappling with Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. He explains that he survived the fall where Moriarty did not, but had to remain "officially" dead while Moriarty's lieutenant, Sebastian Moran, was still at large. Arthur Conan Doyle originally intended Holmes's "death" in The Final Problem to be the conclusion of the Holmes stories, but was persuaded by fan pressure to "resurrect" the character.
- "Pseudocide: The Art of Faking Your Death". Psychology Today. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
- "Pseudocide definición y significado - Diccionario Inglés Collins". www.collinsdictionary.com. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
- Robertson, Geoffrey (1999). The Justice Game. London: Vintage. pp. 62–63. ISBN 978-0-09-958191-8.
- Todd, William Cleaves Timothy Dexter. Boston, Massachusetts: David Clapp & Son., 1886: 6.
- "'Murdered' Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko is alive". BBC News. 30 May 2018. Retrieved 30 May 2018.