Faked death

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This article is about the legal term. For the natural biological behavior of apparent death or feigning death, see Apparent death.

A faked death, also called a pseudocide[citation needed], 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 or to avoid capture by law enforcement for some other crime.

People who fake their own deaths sometimes do so by pretend drownings, because it provides a plausible reason for the absence of a body.

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[edit]

  • 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.[citation needed]
  • "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.[1]
  • 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.

Faked deaths in fiction[edit]

  • The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin
  • Vabank II[clarification needed] - in 1981 Polish comedy directed by Juliusz Machulski, the main protagonist (Henryk Kwinto starred by Jan Machulski) fakes his own death by leaving a necklace with his initials and birth date on an otherwise unrecognisable, burnt body of one of the black characters that died during an explosion in an underground garage. Thus, police investigators are led to believe that Kwinto is the one who died in the fire.


  1. ^ Todd, William Cleaves Timothy Dexter. Boston, Massachusetts: David Clapp & Son., 1886: 6.