From: Reuters
Published December 10, 2007 04:02 PM

"Missing" British canoeist's wife charged

By Tim Castle

LONDON (Reuters) - The wife of the British canoeist who "returned from the dead" five years after going missing, was charged with two counts of deception on Monday, police said.

Anne Darwin will appear in court on Tuesday, charged with dishonestly obtaining 25,000 pounds ($51,000) and 137,000 pounds by money transfer in 2003.

Police said her husband John Darwin, who is facing fraud charges, had grown a beard and used an assumed name to hide the fact he was still alive.

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Darwin, 57, walked into a London police station last week claiming amnesia after apparently drowning at sea in a canoeing accident in 2002.

Police in northeast England issued a photo of Darwin with a straggly beard and appealed for information from anyone who might have known him under the name John Jones.

Darwin appeared in court charged with obtaining money by deception and making a false declaration to get a passport.

His wife, 55, was arrested on suspicion of fraud on Sunday following her return from Panama, where she had recently moved.

Detective Superintendent Tony Hutchinson told reporters she was cooperating with police.

Hutchinson said there was nothing to suggest the couple's two sons were anything other than victims of the suspected deception, adding that he felt "dreadfully sorry" for them.

"They have believed for the past five years their father is dead," said Hutchinson.

"Now they find out that not only is he alive, but he has been arrested. And they now find out from the newspapers that their mother knew that their father was alive."

The sons said last week they wanted no further contact with their parents.

Hutchinson said the motive for Darwin's reappearance and earlier disappearance remained unknown.

He said Darwin's sons could not identify any event which could have triggered the disappearance, but said police would investigate whether there were financial issues.

International coverage of the case had resulted in "countless calls" to police with information about the couple as well as emails from Spain and the Caribbean, Hutchinson said. He appealed for more information.

Anne Darwin had reported her husband missing when he failed to return home after canoeing in the North Sea. A few weeks later the shattered remains of his red kayak were discovered. He was declared Darwin dead in 2003 after a police inquiry.

(Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

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