Wife of UK 'back from dead' canoeist guilty of fraud

Anne Darwin, the wife of the British canoeist who faked his own death to claim life-insurance money, was found guilty of fraud and money laundering charges on Wednesday.

Both Anne Darwin and her husband, John (57), are expected to be sentenced later on Wednesday.

John Darwin, a former prison officer, disappeared in March 2002 after going canoeing near his seaside home in northern England.

After a major police search, the battered remains of his red kayak were discovered a few weeks later and a coroner declared Darwin dead in 2003.

However, he reappeared at a London police station last December, more than five years after going missing, sparking a media frenzy to get to the bottom of what had happened.

In fact Anne Darwin (56), a former doctor’s receptionist who reported her husband missing, had collected him from the shoreline after he pushed his kayak out to sea and taken him to a nearby train station.

He lived rough for a month before returning to the marital home in Seaton Carew, Cleveland, hiding in an apartment in the next door house, which the couple also owned. He grew a beard and went under the assumed name John Jones.

Teeside Crown Court heard that the Darwins had even duped their own sons, Mark (32) and Anthony (29), who turned on their parents when they learned the truth. Both gave evidence for the prosecution at their mother’s trial.

“There is no doubt that this was a callous and calculated fraud,” Gale Gilchrist of the Crown Prosecution Service told reporters after the trial.

“They were willing to exploit any compassion extended to them.”

Investigating officers described Anne Darwin as a compulsive liar who played her role as a distraught wife with aplomb.

After collecting more than £250 000 from insurance and pension policies, Anne Darwin joined her husband in Panama, where they planned to set to up a 460-acre area of ecotourism.

But the truth came to light when Darwin handed himself into police in Britain, claiming he had been suffering from amnesia.

Prosecutors suggested he had been missing his sons, or was scared that the scam was about to be uncovered.

Soon after, a British newspaper published a photo, taken in 2006, which showed the Darwins smiling happily together in an apartment in Panama.

Anne Darwin was arrested on her return home from Central America and charged with six counts of obtaining money by deception and nine of money laundering.

During the trial, she said she had been coerced into the plot against her will by her overbearing husband.

But prosecutors said she had been a willing accomplice from the very start.
They had concocted the plan as they feared being made bankrupt.

The court was told the couple had made £500 000 by cashing in their property at the height of a housing boom.

John Darwin had already pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court in northern England to seven charges of fraud and deception. Sentencing was delayed until the end of his wife’s trial.—Reuters

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