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A Panama hat or just Panama is a traditional brimmed hat that is made from the plaited leaves of the panama-hat palm (Carludovica palmata). Despite the name, genuine Panama hats are made in Ecuador, not Panama. The origin of the name is uncertain. According to legend, the hat became associated with Panama during the construction of the Panama Canal in the early twentieth century. However, the Oxford English Dictionary cites a use of the term as early as 1834. When Teddy Roosevelt visited the Canal, he wore such a hat, which increased its popularity.

The Ecuadorian town of Cuenca is the main producer; however, the town of Montecristi has the reputation of producing the finest quality hats. Glorified during the 19th century, the panama has since been considered the prince of straw hats. Ecuadorian national hero and emblematic figure, Eloy Alfaro helped finance his liberal revolution of Ecuador through the export of panamas. The reputation of the hat was established by Napoleon III, Edward VII, and some other aficionados.

Wife of canoeist John Darwin admits she knew he was alive

Richard Edwards, Paul Stokes and Tom Leonard 2007 12 05

The wife of the 'back from the dead' canoeist John Darwin has admitted that she knew he was alive, sources claimed last night. She also told lawyers that they bought a home in Panama last year. Anne Darwin is understood to be planning to return to Britain after her husband was arrested on suspicion of fraud and a photograph emerged seemingly showing the pair together last year. Mrs Darwin, 55, travelled to Panama for the past three summers. Police believe it is possible Mr Darwin had been living there under an assumed name.

The inquiry is focused on whether they planned an elaborate "fake death" for monetary gain. Mrs Darwin, speaking from her home in Panama City, where she moved six weeks ago, has admitted claiming on Mr Darwin's life insurance. Police are also investigating whether she received a lump sum pension from his work as a prison officer.

Mrs Darwin insisted earlier that she believed her husband was dead and was "delighted" and surprised by his reappearance.

Detectives are still baffled as to why he surfaced in London on Saturday, five years after he went missing, presumed dead, in a canoeing accident in the North Sea. A source said: "We will be investigating whether there were any other 'love interests' involved in Panama."

Officials also indicated last night that Mrs Darwin may be in Panama illegally. It is understood she was given a four-week visitors' visa which would have expired by now. Panamanian immigration officials said they have no record of her applying for a visa extension or a residents' visa.

Cleveland Police reopened the case after being tipped off that the missing canoeist had been in secret phone contact with his wife. Detectives are investigating "hushed" calls Mrs Darwin made this summer, shortly after she returned home to Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, Teesside, after a six-week holiday in Panama.

A friend told police she suspected she was talking to her long-lost husband. Officers discovered a large amount of money had been transferred to an offshore account in Panama three months ago but were still "astonished" when Mr Darwin walked into a London police station on Saturday. He was arrested on suspicion of fraud late on Tuesday night and is due to be questioned today. Mr Darwin, who initially claimed he had no memory since 2000, may be asked to take amnesia tests.

Detectives will put to him that he was photographed in Panama last year with his wife and Mario Vilar, who runs a property location company, Move To Panama.

Mr Vilar said he met the Darwins for a few days in 2006 when he rented them a room while they looked for somewhere more long-term to live. He said they had used a different surname. Mrs Darwin lives in a two-bedroom flat in an area of Panama City not frequented by westerners.

A neighbour said she had been living with an older Western man although she was not sure whether it was Mr Darwin.

Mr Darwin's father, Ronald, 91, said yesterday he felt "betrayed" while his sons Mark, 32, and Anthony, 29, believed he was dead and had been "devastated" for years afterwards.

Police will review the original missing person investigation and are expected to look at phone and bank records.

Det Chf Supt Tony Hutchinson of Cleveland Police said: "There will be people out there who will know exactly where Mr Darwin has been, where he has been living and what he has been doing. We want to hear from them. It may well be he has been living abroad, he may well have been known by another name."

Mrs Darwin reported her husband missing 12 hours after he apparently went canoeing near their seafront home and declared herself a widow within six months. One of Mr Darwin's colleagues reported seeing him outside the family home while driving past in 2005. He returned to get a better look but the man had gone. Mrs Darwin told police it was probably "a cousin" who "looked just like John".

One police officer said: "We had never been able to square the fact that the sea was like a millpond the day that he, an experienced rower, had allegedly drowned."

See also
Lost in Panama

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