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Wife of 'Canoe Man' denies fraud charges

  • Story Highlights
  • Agencies: Wife of UK man who reappeared after believed drowned accused of fraud
  • Anne Darwin, 56, denied nine charges of laundering money, six charges of deception
  • Prosecution: Fraud through "shame and embarrassment" at possible bankruptcy
  • Anne Darwin has said she was coerced into the fraud by her husband
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The wife of a UK man who reappeared five years after he was believed drowned has been accused of defrauding insurance companies and lying to her own sons, UK news agencies report.

Anne Darwin, 56, appearing at Teesside Crown Court in northern England Monday, denied nine charges of laundering money and six charges of deception, the UK's Press Association reported.

Her husband John, a former prison officer and teacher, reappeared at a police station in central London in late 2007 -- five years after he was thought to have drowned off the coast of north-east England.

A coroner declared John Darwin dead in 2003, 13 months after his disappearance.

Outlining the case against Anne Darwin, prosecuting lawyer Andrew Robertson said that the couple conspired to commit the fraud through "shame and embarrassment" at possible bankruptcy over mortgage repayments on a dozen properties, PA reported.

"It is the Crown's case that she and her husband, John Darwin, obtained over £250,000 by means of this fraud, and by the time the fraud was uncovered she had transferred the funds to Panama in Central America where she was then living," Robertson claimed, according to PA. "The funds were invested in land, property and foreign bank accounts in her name.

"It was a scheme in which Anne Darwin not only played an equal and vital role but it was a role which she played with superb aplomb," the agency reported Robertson as saying.

"Her role was a positive one. John Darwin, after supposedly disappearing, had simply to keep his head down so the falsity of his disappearance would not be rumbled by anybody."

John Darwin pushed his canoe out to sea on March 21 2002, the agency quoted the prosecution as saying, then rang his wife to collect him and drop him off at a rail station before she rang police to say he was missing.

A massive air and sea rescue operation was subsequently launched, with the kayak paddle recovered within 24 hours and the remains of Darwin's kayak washed up two months later.

Robertson told the jury that Anne Darwin had also lied to her sons Mark, 32, and Anthony, 29, PA reported.

The prosecution also told the court it should ignore Anne Darwin's defense that she was coerced into the fraud by her husband, adding that they should "remember this was all done by her alone. No John Darwin there piling on the pressure. At this stage he was still hiding somewhere in the hills. This was a sole performance by Anne Darwin."

The case continues.

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