Page last updated at 14:46 GMT, Monday, 14 July 2008 15:46 UK

Canoe man's wife had 'vital role'

Anne and John Darwin
Anne Darwin was arrested following her husband's reappearance

The wife of back-from-the-dead canoeist John Darwin played a "vital role" in defrauding 250,000 after his disappearance, a court has heard.

Anne Darwin convinced insurance companies, a coroner and her sons that he had died in a canoe accident, Teesside Crown Court was told.

The 56-year-old denies five counts of obtaining money by deception and one of obtaining property by deception.

Mr Darwin has admitted deception and will be sentenced later.

He walked into a police station five years after being presumed dead when his canoe was found in the sea close to his home at Seaton Carew in 2002.

Anne Darwin not only played an equal and vital role but she played it with superb aplomb
Andrew Robertson QC, prosecuting

A huge air-sea search failed to find any trace of his body, and he was later pronounced dead.

Andrew Robertson QC, prosecuting at the opening of the trial on Monday, told the jury a financial crisis motivated the couple to stage Mr Darwin's death and then claim insurance and pension money.

He said: "They were at risk of being made bankrupt - the shame and embarrassment of which neither of them wished to face.

"Out of this dire financial situation, seeds of this fraud were born.

"The initial idea may well have been John Darwin's rather than Anne's but, in the Crown's submission, it was a scheme in which Anne Darwin not only played an equal and vital role but it was a role which she played with superb aplomb."

The prosecutor said she had picked her husband up from the seafront after he faked his death and had driven him to Durham railway station so he could "live rough" in the following weeks.

He said Mrs Darwin's nerve "never failed" in the five-and-a-half years before the alleged fraud came to light.

The court heard the couple were facing mounting repayments on a 245,000 mortgage, taken out on about a dozen properties in the Durham area, and other debts totalling 64,000 before Mr Darwin's disappearance.

'Marital coercion'

The jury was also shown a photograph of Mr and Mrs Darwin at an estate agent's office in Panama, Central America, taken after the disappearance.

Mr Robertson said the couple were attempting to buy property with the proceeds of fraud.

He added Mrs Darwin's defence was expected to be one of "marital coercion", meaning she was pressured into fraudulent acts by her husband.

At Leeds Crown Court in March, John Darwin also admitted a passport offence but denied nine charges of using criminal property.

He will not face trial for the charges he denied, which will be left to lie on file.




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