Canoe conwoman freed

Anne Darwin – the wife of back-from-the-dead canoeist John Darwin – has been released from jail in Britain, sources said today.

Anne Darwin – the wife of back-from-the-dead canoeist John Darwin – has been released from jail in Britain, sources said today.

Mrs Darwin was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison in July 2008 after a jury found her guilty of six counts of fraud and nine of money laundering.

She was released from Askham Grange Prison, near York, today just under two years and eight months after she was sentenced.

A car was seen driving out of the main gates of the prison at some speed at 6.45am this morning.

Her husband, who was jailed for six years and three months after admitting seven charges of deception, was released in January.

The former prison officer admitted faking his own death in a canoeing accident to allow his wife to make fraudulent insurance and pension claims.

The crooked couple, of Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, embarked on a new life in Panama after Mr Darwin faked his death in March 2002 by vanishing off the coast.

The Darwins were jailed after Teesside Crown Court heard how they had deceived the police, a coroner, financial institutions and even their sons Mark and Anthony.

The couple’s plan to hoax insurers and pension schemes into believing Mr Darwin was dead was hatched as they faced losing their imposing seafront home.

They had a 12-home property portfolio and were struggling to make mortgage repayments when he paddled into the sea in his home-made canoe and then disappeared.

His wife raised the alarm after driving to Durham police station, sparking a huge search.

The former doctor’s receptionist then began the process of declaring her husband dead and conning insurers and pension funds out of £250,000 (€291,000).

He came home after repeatedly phoning her in tears, and lived in secret in a room in a bedsit the couple owned next door to the family home.

Under the assumed identity John Jones, taken from a local child who died in infancy, Darwin continued to run the couple’s finances and travelled around the world planning a new life for them.

But, apparently forced by a change in visa laws in Panama. Darwin flew back to the UK in 2007 and handed himself in to a central London police station, claiming he suffered amnesia and could remember nothing since 2000.

His wife, still in Panama, was tracked down by a journalist and pretended to be shocked at the back-from-the-dead miracle.

But her story collapsed when a photograph was found on the internet showing the smiling couple posing in a Panama estate agents.

Her defence of “marital coercion” was later undermined when the prosecution in her trial produced loving emails the couple sent each other.

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