Page last updated at 18:50 GMT, Thursday, 17 July 2008 19:50 UK

Canoe wife wished husband drowned

Photo of John and Anne Darwin published on the Move to Panama website
Anne Darwin was pictured with her husband while he was still "missing"

The wife of back-from-the-dead canoeist John Darwin told a jury she wished her husband really had drowned.

Giving evidence at Teesside Crown Court Anne Darwin said she had considered suicide as pressure mounted to maintain the lie of her husband's faked death.

Mrs Darwin, 56, who denies deception and money-laundering charges, said she felt "hurt" for lying to her two sons.

She is accused of taking part in a plot to fraudulently claim 250,000 in pension and insurance funds.

John Darwin, who vanished from the sea close to his Hartlepool home in March 2002 only to reappear last Christmas, has admitted deception and will be sentenced later.

'He's gone'

As Mrs Darwin took the witness stand for the first time on Thursday, she said she no longer loved her husband.

David Waters QC, defending, asked if she still loved her husband, to which she replied: "At this moment in time, no."

But at the time of the deceptions she said she did love him - despite her revealing earlier her husband had an extra-marital affair some years after they married.

The court heard claims her domineering husband forced her to take part in the deception, which involved tricking their two sons Mark, 32, and Anthony, 29, who were present at the trial.

March 2002 - John Darwin reported missing in the sea off Seaton Carew
Search and rescue operation finds no trace of his body
Weeks later, his red canoe washes up on a nearby beach
April 2003 - coroner records open verdict into John Darwin's death
Anne Darwin collects life insurance and pension policies worth about 250,000
Summer 2007 - Anne Darwin moves to Panama
December 2007 - John Darwin walks into a police station and declares himself a missing person
Photograph emerges showing Anne and John Darwin together in Panama
Both are charged with deception offences
John Darwin admits deception, but his wife denies the charges
July 2008 - Anne Darwin's trial starts on Teesside

The former doctor's receptionist was asked about a time when her son Mark travelled from his home in Hampshire to comfort her and she flung her arms around him and said "he's gone, I think, I have lost him".

She admitted to the jury that she did remember doing that and conceded: "I had to make it look realistic and I was upset. I wanted everyone to think it was real."

Mrs Darwin said before his disappearance her husband joined an internet role-playing game and she caught him sending messages to another player.

She said: "He became rather cagey when using the headphones and speaking into the computer if I came into the room. It was obvious he was in conversation."

After his disappearance, Mrs Darwin said she became aware of a woman called Kelly Steel from Kansas in the US.

She said: "I think he met her through playing this game."

Mr Darwin flew out to meet the woman, telling his wife "he needed to get away".

She said she did not try to stop him, saying: "There was not much point because I knew there was no point in arguing because, whatever John wanted, John got."

Later he returned, having lost 30,000.

She told the jury of one occasion when things had become too much.

"I ran out of the house and I crossed the road to the sea and I sat on the beach looking at the sea," she said. "I wished that John had drowned at sea.

"I considered walking into the sea. I got so desperate but I couldn't do it because of the effect it would have on the rest of the family, particularly Mark and Anthony, and I didn't have the courage so I calmed myself down and went back."

Mark (right) and Anthony Darwin
The Darwins' sons were in court to hear their mother give evidence

Mrs Darwin denied she was putting on a charade whenever she appeared tearful in front of friends and family.

Referring to her sons, she said: "I could see how hurt they were and I was hurt for the fact that I was creating this deception.

"I said to John that we should tell them because they were grieving."

Before Mr Darwin's disappearance, the couple owned about a dozen properties in the Durham area.

Mrs Darwin told the court they bought the first home in their property portfolio to make up for her not having a pension.

She was against buying further properties after that experience, but said her husband was adamant.

She also said she had no idea about the level of debt they were in, and always wanted to pay domestic bills immediately.

"He would say 'don't pay them now, wait until the red letter arrives, keep the money in the bank and get some interest'."

The trial continues.

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