Canoe couple to spend Christmas in jail

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The Independent Online

Back-from-the-dead canoeist John Darwin and his wife will spend Christmas apart and behind bars after being remanded in custody by magistrates yesterday.

The Darwins made their second appearance before Hartlepool Magistrates' Court charged with deception offences.

They appeared separately for brief hearings and were both remanded in custody until January 11 to appear before the same court, again separately. No applications for bail were made by either defence solicitors.

A clean-shaven Darwin, sporting a new cropped haircut, spoke only to confirm his name and age during the video-link appearance from Durham Prison.

His wife also only spoke to confirm personal details when she appeared via video link from Low Newton Prison in County Durham.

John, 57, a former teacher and prison officer, is charged with dishonestly obtaining 25,000 and making an untrue statement to procure a passport.

Anne, 55, an-ex doctor's receptionist, is accused of dishonestly obtaining a 25,000 life insurance payment and a policy worth 137,000 which settled her mortgage in the event of his death.

About a dozen journalists filled the public gallery to see the couple but no members of the Darwin family were in court.

Their story has become news across the world since Mr Darwin walked into a police station on December 1 to declare: "I think I'm a missing person."

He disappeared from his home in March 2002 and was presumed drowned after his wrecked canoe was found. The following year a coroner officially declared him dead.

Mrs Darwin initially claimed she was in "total shock" that her husband was still alive.

But it later emerged she had known he was not dead - and that he had been living next door to the family home in Seaton Carew for much of his apparent disappearance.

The couple's sons Mark, 32, and Anthony, 29, released a statement saying they wanted no more contact with their parents.

They asked: "How could our mam continue to let us believe our dad had died when he was very much alive?

Police have repeatedly said the sons were not suspects in the case.

Earlier this week police released a passport photograph allegedly used by Darwin - in the name of John Jones.

The picture shows a man with long hair, balding on top, and sporting a lengthy, greying beard.