Page last updated at 15:23 GMT, Friday, 18 July 2008 16:23 UK

Canoe wife denies 'pathetic' lies

Anne and John Darwin
Anne Darwin denies deception and money laundering charges

The wife of canoeist John Darwin has denied repeatedly lying in court in a "last-ditch" attempt to "get away with it", a court has heard.

Anne Darwin said she felt "trapped" by her husband's actions when lying to their sons about their father's fate.

The prosecution at Teesside Crown Court called her explanation "pathetic" but Mrs Darwin said she thought the pretence would only last a few months.

The 56-year-old denies deception and money laundering charges.

Mr 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.

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 trial has heard how the couple had debts of 64,000 on a portfolio of properties, but Anne Darwin told the court she "did not want the money".

Mrs Darwin was asked how she could deceive her sons Mark, 32, and Anthony, 29.

Andrew Robertson QC, prosecuting, said: "Feeling their pain? You, their mother, could have brought it to an end like that.

"Can't you speak to your children - 'your dad has gone off the rails for goodness sake, we have to sort it out'."

She replied: "It's not as easy as that. We couldn't lay our problems on their shoulders."

Mr Robertson said: "But you could tell them their father was dead."

Mrs Darwin said she thought the pretence would only have to last a few months before their finances would be sorted out and she could come clean to her children.

"I thought when it was explained to them they would understand," she added.

Mrs Darwin said her "overbearing husband" would force her to do things that she did not want to do.

Mr Robertson asked her: "If John had said to you to, 'Anne, I want you to go and jump off a cliff', you would, because John told you to, even if you didn't want to because he had overborne your will?"

She replied: "I think that's a very unfair comparison. You were not there to see how I lived."

The former doctor's receptionist also denied knowing the extent of the couple's debt problems.

And when asked whether pretending someone was dead to claim insurance money was in fact fraud, she replied: "I didn't understand it to be fraud at the time."

The trial resumes on Monday.

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