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Jury to be sent out in canoe wife's case

The jury in the trial of Anne Darwin - wife of back-from-the-dead canoeist John - was due to retire to consider its verdicts later today.

The judge at Teeside Crown Court, Mr Justice Wilkie, will sum up in the £250,000 fraud case before sending jurors out to consider the evidence against the mother-of-two.

The 56-year-old grey-haired defendant denies six fraud charges and nine counts of money laundering which relate to her helping her husband stage his own death in a canoeing accident six years ago, and then cashing in insurance policies and pensions.

She admits being part of the plot, but is putting forward the defence of marital coercion, meaning her husband forced her to act against her will.

For the defence to succeed, she must prove the former prison officer was with her whenever an offence was committed, and that she was "overborne" by him.

The court heard the plan to fake Mr Darwin's death was hatched when the couple headed towards bankruptcy.

She rang police to say her husband's canoe was missing and a huge search was launched in the sea within sight of their home in Seaton Carew, Teesside, in March 2002.

He laid low and took on another identity, while Mrs Darwin went about declaring him dead and claiming huge lump sums.

The deception even took in their sons Mark, 32, and Anthony, 29, the court heard.

The couple were about to start a new life in Panama last year, when 57-year-old Mr Darwin suddenly flew back to the UK and told police he had amnesia but believed he was a missing person.

The ruse unravelled after a photo of the grinning Darwins was found on the internet taken in 2006, sinking the mother-of-two's claims to be shocked her husband was still alive.

The jury has heard Mr Darwin admits fraud and dishonestly obtaining a passport.