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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 or to avoid capture by law enforcement for some other crime.
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
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- The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin
- The Art of Love
- Romeo and Juliet
- 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.
- In The Reichenbach Fall, the final episode of the second season of the television series Sherlock, Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) intentionally fakes his death by jumping off the roof of St. Bartholomew's Hospital in order to protect his friends from assassins hired by Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott) and track down the remainder of Moriarty's criminal network in secret.
- In the series finale of House, M.D., after a prank goes very badly, House fakes his death to avoid being sent back to jail so that he can spend time with his best friend Wilson, who has five months to live as a result of terminal cancer.
- In the book Visser, the details of how Visser One (Edriss 562) made Marco's mother Eva fake her death in order to focus more on directing the Yeerk invasion of Earth are covered. The "death" itself happens before the first book in the series.
- Alison DiLaurentis allowed herself to be presumed dead while she went into hiding for several years in the television series Pretty Little Liars
- In Carl Hiaasen's novel Bad Monkey, a Medicare fraudster goes to extreme lengths to fake his death in order to avoid prosecution for his crimes. Both the criminal and the protagonists reflect that faking one's own death is a common ploy used by criminals, but it rarely works unless the criminal goes to such extreme lengths.
- In Batman: Arkham Knight Bruce Wayne/Batman faked his death during the Knightfall Protocol.
- In Double Jeopardy, a 1999 film starring Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones, a man fakes his death in order to move with his mistress, along with his son, while his wife is jailed for his supposed murder.
- In J.K Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, it is revealed that Peter Pettigrew faked his own death after framing Sirius Black for betraying James and Lily Potter to Lord Voldemort.
- In the 2002 Tom Clancy novel Red Rabbit, MI6 and CIA attempt to protect a KGB defector along with his wife and daughter by causing a hotel fire then planting the recently deceased corpses of a man, woman, and little girl.
- In Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl and its 2014 film adaptation, starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck, the character Amy Elliott Dunne fakes her death in order to punish her husband for his infidelity.
- In the series The Fugitive, Richard Kimble fakes his death multiple times to avoid being arrested and executed for a crime he didn't commit.
- In the South Park episode Marjorine, Butters fakes his death with a pig cadaver.
- In the final episode of White Collar, starring Matt Bomer as ex-con turned FBI criminal informant Neal Caffrey and Tim DeKay as FBI Special Agent Peter Burke, Caffrey fakes his death, when really all along it it was "Neal Caffrey's greatest con" as the ending scene sees him walking the streets of Paris.
- "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.
- 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.
- "Everybody Dies (House)", Wikipedia, 2018-08-26, retrieved 2018-09-05