Darwin sons tell court of fury over deception

The "betrayed" sons of Anne and John Darwin said today their shock at losing their father turned to anger when they discovered his death was an elaborate lie.

Mark and Anthony Darwin's surprise at their father's return after more than five years being presumed dead turned to rage that they had been deceived for so long.

They realised they had been fooled when a damning photograph of their smiling parents appeared on the internet, Teesside Crown Court heard.

The staged death was part of a complicated plan by their parents to escape a financial crisis by defrauding insurance companies of £250,000, the court heard.

Mark, 32, told the jury he knew his mother had hidden the truth when he saw the image of the couple in Panama taken four years after Mr Darwin apparently vanished in his canoe off the coast of Hartlepool within sight of their seafront home.

He said: "I couldn't believe the fact she knew he was alive all this time and I had been lied to for God knows how long."

Anthony, 29, said he thought the image was faked and had been doctored by an internet prankster.

It was only when he read a newspaper confession by his mother in which she apparently confirmed it was genuine that he realised he had been so badly duped.

Asked how he felt at that moment, Anthony scratched his head and replied: "Upset, betrayed, I don't know."

The court heard how he cut short a trip to Canada in March 2002 during which he intended to propose to his girlfriend when he was told that his father was missing.

Mark told the jury he dialled his brother's number to break the bad news but was too upset to speak and had to hand the phone to his aunt.

He travelled from his home in Basingstoke, Hampshire, to comfort his mother in the days after Mr Darwin's disappearance.

He said: "She flung her arms around me, she said 'He's gone I think. I have lost him'.

"She wouldn't stop crying for ages.

"We just stood in the drawing room doorway."

Mark, who wore a dark suit, blinked in the witness box, and recalled: "It crushed my world."

Anthony busied himself in the following weeks checking websites for news from the coastguard and missing persons organisations.

Both sons comforted their mother at the subsequent inquest which recorded an open verdict.

Mark was at a wedding in Balham, London, in November last year when he was telephoned to say his father had turned up at a central London police station.

Anthony told the jury he was angered at the suggestion it was his father, thinking it was an impostor claiming to be John Darwin.

But the sons were convinced when they saw him.

Anthony felt "surprised, amazed, [I was] still almost disbelieving."

They rang their mother, who by this time had made fraudulent claims worth £250,000 on John's life, sold the couple's properties and emigrated to Panama.

Mark told the jury: "I rambled for 10 minutes and explained my dad had turned up and I am sat next to him.

"She sounded really shocked that he had turned up after all these years."

But the sons were to realise the shock she expressed was not genuine when they saw the damning photo of their parents.

Mrs Darwin dabbed her eyes and blew her nose when Mark spoke about being deceived.

Mark agreed with David Waters QC, defending, that he had felt extreme trauma and anger towards his mother when the Panama photograph was published.

Earlier, Andrew Robertson QC, prosecuting, told the jury Mrs Darwin tried to cover up her involvement in the plan.

"Far from dealing here with a 'shrinking violet', we have here a determined, resolute woman who was able to lie and deceive at length - literally at length," he said.

She denies six counts of fraud and nine counts of money laundering, putting forward an unusual defence of "marital coercion" - claiming her husband forced her to go along with his plan.

Mr Robertson said Mrs Darwin was "actively engaged" in money laundering by setting up bank accounts in Jersey and in Panama.

"We concede, as regards all these complicated arrangements, John Darwin was playing a role," he said.

"The ideas may well have been his. However, from March 2007 as Anne Darwin told police, John Darwin was in Panama.

"It therefore seems that matters from the UK end were handled by Anne Darwin alone - not in the company of her husband.

"It was a totally equal criminal partnership."

The case was adjourned until tomorrow.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
Clarke Carlisle
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'