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Canoe fraudsters now have 'no known assets'

Back-from-the-dead canoeist John Darwin and his ex-wife Anne now have no known assets after his £40,000 pension was seized, the Crown Prosecution Service said today.

John Darwin and his ex-wife Anne, who now have no known assets after his £40,000 pension was seized. Credit: PA/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The couple, who faked his death in the North Sea 13 years ago, allowing her to claim hundreds of thousands of pounds in life insurance payouts, have now repaid £541,762.39p.

While John hid in the martial home in Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, Anne pretended to be a grieving widow, fooling even their two sons.

The couple then moved to Panama to start a new life.

But their story unravelled when John returned to the UK, claiming to have amnesia, in December 2007.

The Darwins were eventually prosecuted for fraud and were jailed in 2008.

The couple, who have since split, have been subject to Proceeds of Crime hearings.

She has repaid more than £500,000 while the £40,000 he paid in July last year from his pension meant he no longer had any assets.

Following his conviction, the court found that John, 64, had benefited by £679,194, but having pretended to be dead, all assets were in his wife's name.

The court therefore made an order for £1 allowing the CPS to amend the order should any assets, such as this pension, become available.

"The Darwins now have no known assets remaining for confiscation. When John Darwin devised his plan to defraud insurance companies, he didn't think he'd get caught at all. But he also didn't bank on the dedication and determination of my team to recover the money he stole - even seven years later. This case really shows that fraud doesn't pay. My thanks also go to police colleagues in the North East Regional Asset Recovery Team for their hard work."

– Nick Price, Crown Prosecution Service


John Darwin ordered to pay £40,000

John Darwin leaving Teesside Crown Court today. Credit: PA

Canoe fraudster John Darwin has been ordered to pay £40,000 to the authorities after two pensions matured.

A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing at Teesside Crown Court heard he had so far only paid back £121 of the £679,073 he was found to have benefitted from after faking his own death. Darwin, from Seaton Carew near Hatlepool, did not challenge the application by the Crown.

How canoe fraudster John Darwin tried to fake his death for cash

When John Darwin went missing in his canoe in 2002, police and coastguards were confused as to how he'd got into trouble when the sea was so calm.

What eventually unravelled five years later was an elaborate plan by John and his wife, Anne, to fake his death in order to claim hundreds of thousands of pounds in life insurance.

  • March 2002 - John Darwin goes missing in a canoe off the coast at Hartlepool. He is presumed dead.
  • March 2003 - A death certificate is issued, allowing his wife, Anne, to claim more than £500,000 in life insurance payouts. By this point, he is back in the family home in Seaton Carew. The couple let their sons believe their father was dead.
  • 2006 - Anne and John Darwin move to Panama.
  • December 2007 - John Darwin walks into a London police station, faking amnesia, claiming he can't remember anything from the last five years. Anne initially expresses joy, shock and elation - until a picture emerges of them together in Panama the previous year.
  • 2008 - Both are jailed for fraud.


'Hacking' case into canoe couple dropped

A Sky News journalist accused of hacking into the emails of fake canoe death couple John and Anne Darwin will face no further action.

Gerard Tubb allegedly accessed their emails but the CPS said it was uncertain whether this had taken place in the UK, and prosecution would not be in the public interest.

Prosecutors also said that the public interest would outweigh any alleged criminal activity.

Sky News declined to comment.

Mr Darwin admitted faking his own death in March 2002 to allow his wife to make fraudulent insurance and pension claims.

The couple planned a new life in Panama, but were jailed in 2008 after jurors heard how they deceived the police, a coroner, financial institutions and even their family.

"On the evidence currently available it is not possible to ascertain whether the potential offence of unlawful interception of a communication was committed in the UK or the US.

"Although this may warrant further investigation, it has been decided under section 4.2 of the Code for Crown prosecutors that further investigations are not required as, in accordance with the DPP's guidelines, we do not consider that any potential prosecution would be in the public interest."

– Malcolm McHaffie, deputy head of special crime at the CPS

"Having considered the factors set out in the guidelines on cases affecting the media, it is our view that the evidence indicates that the public interest served by the conduct in question outweighs the potential overall criminality, should an offence be proved.

"In reaching this decision, we took into account that the emails were accessed with a view to showing that a criminal offence had been committed and that a number of the same emails were subsequently lawfully obtained by the police and used by the prosecution at the criminal trial of Anne Darwin."

– Malcolm McHaffie, deputy head of special crime at the CPS

Sky News statement

Sky News is committed to the highest editorial standards. Like other news organisations, we are acutely aware of the tensions that can arise between the law and responsible investigative journalism.

In the 2008 case of Anne Darwin, Sky News met with Cleveland Police and provided them with emails offering new information relevant to Mrs Darwin's defence. Material provided by Sky News was used in the successful prosecution and the police made clear after the trial that this information was pivotal to the case.

– John Ryley, Head of Sky News

We stand by these actions as editorially justified and in the public interest. We do not take such decisions lightly or frequently. They require finely balanced judgement based on individual circumstances and must always be subjected to the proper editorial controls.

– John Ryley, Head of Sky News

Sky News admits John Darwin email hacking

Sky News has admitted illegally hacking into the emails of John Darwin, the man who faked his own death in a canoeing accident off Seaton Carew.

The broadcaster says it authorised a journalist to access Darwin's Yahoo! account because it was 'in the public interest'.

It says the evidence it discovered was handed to police, who used it in the successful fraud prosecution of Darwin and his wife Anne in 2008. They were both jailed after claiming thousands of pounds in life assurance payments in the scam.

Sky News is part of BSkyB, which is 39% owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. His now-defunct newspaper, the News of the World, is being investigated over allegations of illegal phone hacking.