Faked death

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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
  • 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 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 the prologue of Grand Theft Auto V, one of the main protagonists Michael Townley (now de Santa) worked with a government agent to shoot him (while wearing a bulletproof vest) and another heist crew member, while keeping the last one, Trevor Philips, alive.


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