Canoe conman freed from jail

Back-from-the-dead canoeist John Darwin has been released from jail, sources said today.

The former prison officer was sentenced to six years and three months behind bars in July 2008 after admitting faking his own death in a canoeing accident to allow his wife Anne to make fraudulent insurance and pension claims.

He walked free from Moorland open prison in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, after serving less than half his sentence.

A probation service spokesman said: "All offenders subject to probation supervision on release from prison have to adhere to a set of strict conditions.

"They are subject to recall to custody if they breach their conditions or their behaviour indicates that it is no longer safe for them to remain in the community."

The Darwins were jailed for more than six years at Teeside Crown Court for the swindle which deceived the police, a coroner, financial institutions and even their sons Mark and Anthony.

The couple's plan to hoax insurers and pension schemes into believing Mr Darwin was dead was hatched as the couple faced losing their imposing seafront home in Seaton Carew, Hartlepool, in 2002.

They had a 12-home property portfolio and were struggling to make mortgage repayments when he paddled into the sea in his home-made canoe and then disappeared.

His wife raised the alarm after driving to Durham police station, sparking a huge search, then played her grieving widow role with aplomb.

Her sons were tearfully told the tragic news and she walked round in a daze for weeks.

The former doctor's receptionist then began the process of declaring her husband dead and conning insurers and pension funds out of 250,000.

He came home after repeatedly phoning her in tears, and lived in secret in a room in the bedsit the couple owned next door to the family home.

Under the assumed identity John Jones, taken from a local child who died in infancy, Darwin continued to run the couple's finances and travelled around the world planning a new life for them.

In October 2007 Anne Darwin settled her affairs in the UK, having sold off the family's property portfolio, and emigrated to Panama, where she joined her husband.

Cash was transferred via the Channel Islands and the houses that the couple were in danger of losing as they crept close to bankruptcy in 2002 were turned into assets worth 500,000.

They bought a flat and land in the Panama countryside which they hoped to transform into a canoeing centre focusing on eco-tourism.

But then Darwin flew back to the UK and handed himself in to a central London police station, claiming he suffered amnesia and could remember nothing since 2000.

His wife, still in Panama, was tracked down by a journalist and pretended to be shocked at the back-from-the-dead miracle.

But her story collapsed when a photograph was found on the internet

showing the smiling couple posing in a Panama estate agents.

Her defence of "marital coercion" was later undermined when the prosecution in her trial produced loving emails the couple sent each other.

Coun Judith Blake

Joy as Yorkshire set to host Ashes Test in 2023