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Canoe 'death' duo face final chapter; Darwins will be forced to hand back cash.

Byline: Paul Loraine

THE back-from-the-dead canoeist and his wife will be reunited when they face a hearing to claw back the pounds 250,000 they swindled.

The legal saga of Anne Darwin, 57, and her husband John will come to an end in November when they face a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing.

Prosecutors will seek to reclaim the fortune the couple made from faking 58-year-old Mr Darwin's death before they started a new life in Panama. Mr Justice Wilkie, sitting at Newcastle Crown Court, ordered that the couple, who he jailed last year, appear at Leeds Crown Court in the week commencing November 9.

The judge said the hearing will end the legal chapter in the couple's story, adding: "This has been dragging on inordinately." The couple made fraudulent life insurance and pension claims after Mr Darwin disappeared while paddling his canoe in the North Sea near his home in Seaton Carew, Hartlepool in March 2002.

The couple started a new life in Panama but he came back to the UK in November 2007, telling police he was a missing person with amnesia.

His story fell apart when a photo of the grinning couple taken in Panama turned up on the internet. Anne Darwin was jailed for six-and-a-half years following a money-laundering trial while her husband was sentenced to six years three months after admitting fraud.

She claimed her domineering husband forced her to go through with the plan to con insurance and pension companies by faking his death at sea.

The trial judge, Mr Justice Wilkie, told the Darwins their sons' lives were crushed by the deception, and that meant a severe sentence was needed.

After the trial, detectives said that after a tip-off, they had already been working on the basis that Mr Darwin was alive before he handed himself in.

Teesside Crown Court heard the plan to hoax insurers and pension schemes into believing Mr Darwin was dead was hatched as the couple faced losing their seafront home in Seaton Carew in 2002.

They had a 12-home property portfolio and were struggling to make mortgage repayments, when he paddled into the sea in his home-made canoe and then disappeared..


DESOLATE The coast at Seaton Carew near Hartlepool, from where John Darwin faked a his disappearance in a staged canoeing accident.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 21, 2009
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