Police sift finances of canoe-scam couple


Police began to sift through the financial assets of John and Anne Darwin today to recover the money the couple defrauded in their £250,000 (€317,000) "canoe-death" scam.

Mr Darwin (57) and his wife (56) hatched their plot to beat bankruptcy after running into financial difficulties.

Their “determined, sustained and sophisticated” fraud ended yesterday at Teesside Crown Court where Mr Darwin was jailed for six years and three months and his wife for six-and-a-half years.

In total, the Darwins claimed £250,820.75 in insurance payments and pension payouts over a five-and-half-year period.

The money was used to keep the couple afloat and allow them to pay off the hefty mortgage on their large marital home and portfolio of rental properties.

When all the houses were sold off, the couple laundered the money - even using their sons Mark (32) and Anthony (29) - via Jersey to Panama, where the couple started a new life.

Police believe that at the time the Darwins were arrested last December, their assets were worth £500,000 - the equivalent of one million US dollars in Panama.

After Mr Darwin walked into a London police station, officers began unravelling their complicated finances in Panama.

Mrs Darwin had bought an apartment in Panama City, which was worth $56,000 and spent US$389,789 on land to build a canoeing centre for tourists.

There were also two bank accounts in Panama - containing $319 and $220 respectively; a Yorkshire Bank account with £2,300; two HSBC bank accounts holding £60 and £550; and two HSBC bank accounts in Jersey with $1,800 and $100.

Det Insp Andy Greenwood, who led the inquiry into the couple, said: “Any reasonable person who finds themselves in the Darwins’ position would sell their properties to realise the debt.

“Instead they hatched this plot. Mr and Mrs Darwin liked to portray themselves as well-to-do and it was an image that they found difficult to move away from."

He said police were already starting the process of getting the money back and a worldwide order is in place freezing the couple’s assets.

Yesterday, the court heard that legal proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act have already begun.

Two insurance companies - Unat Direct and Norwich Union - have started legal proceedings against the couple for the sums they defrauded.