Page last updated at 12:45 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

Canoe pair lose jail term appeals

John Darwin was jailed for six years and his wife for six-and-a-half

Back-from-the-dead canoeist John Darwin and his wife Anne have both lost appeals against their prison sentences.

They were jailed in July 2008 for their parts in a sophisticated scam in which Darwin faked his own death to fraudulently claim £250,000.

The 58-year-old was jailed for six years for deception while Anne Darwin, 56, was jailed for six-and-a-half-years for fraud and money laundering.

A judge at the Court of Appeal ruled that the sentences were not excessive.

This was the grossest form of betrayal
Lord Judge, Court of Appeal

Neither John nor Anne Darwin were present to hear their challenges rejected by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, sitting with two other judges.

Lord Judge said it was not appropriate to interfere with the decision reached by the trial judge at Teesside Crown Court.

He described it as a "notorious case" with "unique or virtually unique aggravating features".

One important consequence of Darwin's actions, Lord Judge said, was that a number of individuals became involved in the "unpleasant and potentially dangerous task of trying to find and rescue him".

After John Darwin's disappearance, everyone, including the couple's two sons Mark and Anthony, were unaware that he was still alive.

Mark Darwin (left) and Anthony Darwin
The couple's sons were the "real victims", the trial judge said

Lord Judge added: "For the fraud to work at all, the children had to be fooled. They had to believe that they, and she, were bereaved.

"This was the grossest form of betrayal."

The Darwins came up with the plot as they faced bankruptcy, and hoped to start a new life in Panama.

In March 2002, the prison officer paddled out to sea close to his home in Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, then abandoned his boat.

His wife drove him in secret to Durham railway station, then raised the alarm, prompting a huge air-sea rescue operation.

John Darwin apparently spent several weeks in the Lake District, then returned home, where his wife kept him hidden inside the house for about four years.

Eventually the Darwins moved to Panama, where John Darwin lived under the assumed identity of "John Jones".

Anne Darwin's apartment in Panama
The couple owned an apartment and land in Panama

But the plot unravelled when Darwin reappeared at a London police station in December 2007 claiming he had lost his memory.

Police believe his sudden return may have been sparked by a row between the couple.

Darwin and his wife were later convicted of the fraud, in which they tricked family, friends, police and insurance companies into believing he had drowned.

John Darwin admitted the deception charges and Anne Darwin, who had denied being involved, was convicted after a trial.

The judge at Teesside Crown Court said the couple's two sons were the "real victims".

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