UK debt hits record of £799bn

Legal moves to reclaim hundreds of thousands of pounds illegally claimed by the wife of a back-from-the-dead canoeist are due to begin.

Anne Darwin, 56, was jailed for the £250,000 insurance fraud after her husband John, 57, faked his own death in a drowning near Hartlepool in 2002.

Darwin handed himself in to police after spending five years in hiding.

A hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act was listed to take place at Newcastle Crown Court on Tuesday.

The hearing will take place before Mr Justice Wilkie, who presided over the original trial.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said after the trial it wanted £455,000 from the sale of the couple's two Teesside homes to be included in any settlement.

John Darwin will face a separate bill.

In 2002 the couple convinced the police, a coroner, financial institutions and their two sons Mark and Anthony that John Darwin had drowned in the North Sea outside their seafront home in Seaton Carew.

New life

But Darwin turned up at a police station in London in 2007, claiming to have amnesia.

During the "missing" five years, Darwin hid in a bedsit next door to their home, took on a false identity, then tried to start a new life in Panama with his wife.

She had cashed in a life assurance policy and successfully had their mortgage paid off.

When Darwin reappeared at a London police station, Anne Darwin was traced to Central America.

At first she claimed to be surprised by his return, but her story unravelled when a photograph of the pair smiling in an estate agents office in Panama surfaced on the internet.

Anne Darwin, was jailed for six-and-a-half years in July after she admitted six counts of fraud and nine counts of money laundering.

John Darwin admitted the charges as well as falsely obtaining a passport and was jailed for six years and three months.

BBC NEWS, 25 November 2008

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