POLICE have vowed to keep pursuing canoe conman John Darwin for money after seizing £40,000 from his bank account.

Judge Peter Bowers authorised the lump sum to be confiscated after it was paid to the fraudster when two pension funds matured.

But the court heard Darwin still owes about £639,000 - and police warned they will seek to recover more money should he receive any.

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Darwin, who is back living in Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, where he faked his death in 2002 by pretending to have drowned while canoeing in the sea, declined to comment after the short hearing at Teesside Crown Court.

The court heard how the 63-year-old had previously paid just £121 towards a £679,073.62 Proceeds of Crime order made in 2009.

It is understood Darwin will continue to receive monthly pension payouts from the funds which were build up during previous jobs as a teacher and prison officer.

After the hearing, Jolyon Perks, prosecuting, said the police were seeking to recover money that Darwin had benefitted from by the fraud.

He added: "We believe this sends a strong signal to those who seek to benefit from their criminal conduct that these orders have teeth, they will be pursued and they will be rigorously enforced.

"The Proceeds of Crime Act is intended to be draconian."

Detective Sergeant Tommy Maughan, from the North East Regional Asset Recovery Team, later welcomed the outcome.

He said: "Mr Darwin has now seen first-hand the full force of the Proceeds of Crime Act legislation in action.

“His full benefit from crime has still not been paid off, and if he comes into any substantial assets in the future we will again consider asking the court to revisit the confiscation order granted against him in 2009."

Darwin's former wife, Anne, has paid about £500,000 but still owes £177,000 of a separate order, it emerged during the hearing.

Darwin was reported missing after going canoeing in the North Sea in March 2002.

His wife collected more than £500,000 in life insurance payouts, while he hid in their home, leaving their two sons to believe he was dead.

He turned up at a UK police station in November 2007, claiming he was a missing person with amnesia.

But the pair's story began to fall apart after a photo of the couple in Panama turned up on the internet.

Mr Darwin was jailed for six years and three months after admitting seven charges of deception, while Anne was later jailed for six-and-a-half-years after being found guilty of fraud and money-laundering.