NEWS – “without comment”

Posted by: Ian (D. Withers)

‘I help people disappear – but faking your own death is a terrible idea’

Hundreds of people each year commit ‘pseudocide’ and walk away from their lives.  But in the digital age, maintaining the lie without leaving a trace is almost impossible

An Interesting Article By Kasia Delgado

January 31, 2023

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When author Susan Meachen took her own life in 2020, her devastated fans in the tightly knit world of self-published romance novels helped fund her funeral costs and promote the final book she had written before her untimely death. Then, in January this year – three years after her supposed death – it turned out that Meachen was alive and well.

At the time of her apparent suicide, Meachen had logged onto Facebook, pretending to be her daughter and written a post declaring herself dead. Why did she do it? Nobody knows. The Tennessee-based writer has suggested she has mental health problems, but the writing community has also suggested she might have thought her death would help sell more books.

In the same month, an American man believed to have faked his own death was arrested at a hospital in Glasgow. Nicholas Rossi, 34, also known as Nicholas Alahverdian, told US media in December 2019 that he had late-stage non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, and had just weeks left to live. Several outlets reported that Rossi had died in February 2020. A memorial posted online declared him a “warrior that fought on the front lines for two decades” because of his work for children’s rights. The post also said that his ashes had been scattered at sea.

The start of 2023 has also seen ITV release a new series, Stonehouse, which dramatised the real-life story of MP John Stonehouse who in 1974, knee-deep in debt, left a neat pile of his clothes on a beach in Miami, took a dip, and failed to return. His abandoned clothes were discovered and after some time he was presumed dead.

When he was later discovered living in Australia, Stonehouse was brought back to England by Scotland Yard detectives after being denied political asylum from several countries and made to face charges, including fraud and conspiracy to defraud. A biography, Stonehouse, by his great nephew, lawyer Julian Hayes, was published last year.

Yet private investigator Steve Rambam estimates he has solved more than 750 suspected fake death cases during his 36-year career. He has seen first-hand that life after faking your death is “a full time job”. His message to death fakers – who are largely men – is: “I can make 1,000 mistakes, but if you make just one – I’ve got you.

“If you fake your own death, you have to maintain your identity and lifestyle perfectly. If your old identity reappears for a moment, for a nanosecond, I will get you.”

Case in point: in 2020, a New York man who allegedly faked his own death in an attempt to avoid sentencing on felony charges was ultimately thwarted by a typo he made on his forged death certificate. “Registry” was spelled as “Regsitry”.

The desperation for that new life comes from all sorts of scenarios, but one of the most common reasons, says Rambam, is extensive debt. “They’re funding a certain lifestyle that they want to keep afloat, and they might try to claim their life insurance money to help.”

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