Canoe wife must repay £600,000 ? while husband faces bill for £1

Author: By Rod Minchin

A judge yesterday told Mrs Darwin, 57, to give back £591,838.25, while her
husband John, 59, has to repay a nominal £1 because he is penniless. The
couple, who conned insurance companies after they staged Mr Darwin’s “death”
in a bogus canoeing accident, have now had their assets confiscated.

The Darwins had benefited to the sum of £679,194.62 from the fraud, Leeds
Crown Court heard. However, the realisable assets totalled £591,838.25, said
Jolyon Perks, prosecuting, said. The Darwins own land in Panama worth
£232,000 and a £58,000 apartment in Panama City. The remaining near-£300,000
was held in bank accounts in the Central American country.

“I have provided the court this morning a schedule which sets out the
total benefit and the realisation of the monies that the Crown would ask
your Lordship to make a confiscation order today,” Mr Perks said. “This
matter is agreed by the representatives of both John and Anne Darwin.”

Mr Perks said the prosecution were not making the application “to enrich
the coffers of the Crown”. He said: “It is an application to take
away from the defendants their ill-gotten gains.” Mrs Darwin, looking
pale and drawn, was in court today for the hearing, but her husband, a
former prison officer and teacher, was excused attendance.

The Darwins defrauded Aviva, formerly Norwich Union, of £247,478.46 when they
made a claim on a mortgage insurance policy, Mr Perks said.

Fellow insurance giant AIG was conned out of £58,833.69 when the couple cashed
in a life insurance policy.

They also made claims on Mr Darwin’s prison service pension of £84,147.64, his
teaching pension of £34,277.70 and a Department of Work and Pensions payout
of £4,273.60.

Mr Perks said the couple’s assets were in Mrs Darwin’s name and her husband
was, in effect, penniless.

“John Darwin being a person of no assets, it is not possible to make any
order against him apart from a nominal amount,” he said.

Mr Perks asked that the couple have 12 months to repay the money and if they
fail to do so they could face an extra two-and-half-years’ imprisonment.

Mrs Darwin was jailed for six-and-a-half years last year after a jury found
her guilty of six counts of fraud and nine of money laundering. Mr Darwin
admitting seven charges of deception and was jailed for six years and three
months.

The couple, of Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, began a new life in Panama after
Mr Darwin faked his death in March 2002 by vanishing off the coast. He
turned up at a UK police station in November 2007, claiming he was a missing
person with amnesia. The ruse fell apart when a photo of the couple in
Panama turned up on the internet.

Mr Darwin had obtained a passport in the name of a dead baby, John Jones, and
lived secretly with his wife while they hatched a plot to emigrate to Panama
and start a new life. Mr Darwin travelled to Panama where they bought a flat
and planned to set up an ecological tourism business together.

Mrs Darwin claimed during her trial that she was forced into the scam by her
husband. But a jury found her guilty on all counts. This year the couple
both lost appeals against their sentences.

Detective Inspector Andy Greenwood, who led the original investigation, said
he did not know whether this would be the end of the Darwin saga.

“I hope this is the end,” he said, “but you can never say never
with the Darwins… Anne and John Darwin have deceived their friends and
family. This was a vindictive and nasty crime.”

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