THE beginning of May saw a "political earthquake" hit the North-East when Conservative Ben Houchen was elected as the first ever mayor of the Tees Valley.

The businessman and Tory leader at Stockton Council, vowed to “turn the Tees Valley blue” after stunning his main rival, Labour’s Sue Jeffrey, to win the historic election by more than 2,000 votes.

Despite Labour having council leaders in all five of the boroughs in the Tees Valley, it was Mr Houchen – who had pledged to buy Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA) if elected – who sent shockwaves through North-East politics.

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Speaking to The Northern Echo at the count at Thornaby Pavilion, near Stockton, following his win, Mr Houchen said he felt “elated and excited.”

“It (winning) was something that I was quietly confident about – we always knew we were in with a chance, we’ve seen strong trends towards the Conservatives in recent years.

“I think today we’ve caused a political earthquake across the Tees Valley.

“We are going to see a massive difference – we are going to grow jobs, grow the economy and make a better life for the people of the Tees Valley.”

In Durham, the city's cathedral was transformed into a film set for the next Avengers movie.

Big name stars were spotted at the cathedral, which was closed for four days, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Scarlett Johansson and Zoe Saldana.

People working on the set in Durham were tight-lipped about what the “major project” entailed, and cathedral volunteers were kept entirely in the dark.

The cathedral has previously been a popular choice of filming location, with the likes of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone using its spectacular architecture as a backdrop.

The new film, Avengers: Infinity War, will be the latest of the Marvel superhero franchise and is due to be released in cinemas on May 4, 2018.

Meanwhile, a scheming Peterlee businessman forged his mother’s will only to be found out when he misspelled his own brother’s name.

Stewart Caygill, who once charged his mother £4,000 for mowing her lawn, plundered her bank account before her death then made himself the main beneficiary of her estate so he would get a greater share of her home.

But the 53-year-old’s brother, Philip Caygill, immediately realised the will was fake when he noticed his mother’s signature was different and that his name was spelled with a second ‘l’.

He said: “The fake will made no mention of the grandchildren, not to mention the various charities she supported. She loved her dogs and if there was a genuine will they would have come before anything else."

Stewart Caygill was sentenced to four years imprisonment for forgery and using a false instrument.

As the month continued, a mass police search ensued after a schoolboy decided to take the day off and hide under his bed.

There was panic over the whereabouts of nine-year-old Josh Dinning when his older brother, Owen, came downstairs one morning and told their mother that Josh had seemingly disappeared from his bed overnight.

She called the police at 9am and the force helicopter and dog section were called out to search for him.

Neighbours also formed a dragnet across the estate in Dunston, Gateshead, checking bushes, outbuildings and gardens and handed out pictures of Josh at local shops.

Three and a half hours later, police readied themselves to brief the media in a press conference outside Forth Banks police station in Newcastle when Josh’s mother, Michelle, suggested one more look in the house.

She said: “They went upstairs again and this time they lifted all the beds in his room and one of them bent down.

“I heard him say ‘Howay son, time to come out now I think.’

“I bent down and saw the green of his school shirt and burst into tears, it was a feeling like I’ve never known, the relief was unbelievable.”

In Newcastle city centre, people watched as the old Odeon cinema building collapsed into the middle of Pilgrim street, scattering scaffolding and debris.

A taxi driver who was parked nearby said: “I heard a bang like a car explosion. Within minutes police were on the scene and cordoned the whole area off.”

Esther Beadle was waiting at a bus stop across the road when it collapsed and said scaffolding had landed just a few metres from where she was standing.

She said: "Had there been anyone on the other side of the street they would have been seriously injured.”

The debris was quickly removed in a clean-up operation and there was no reports of serious injuries.

PRIME Minister Theresa May made the ill-fated announcement of holding a snap election.

Standing outside 10 Downing Street, she said: “I have just chaired a meeting of the Cabinet, where we agreed that the Government should call a general election to be held on June 8.

“I want to explain the reasons for that decision, what will happen next and the choice facing the British people when you come to vote in this election.

“We want a deep and special partnership between a strong and successful European Union and a United Kingdom that is free to chart its own way in the world.

“This is the right approach, and it is in the national interest. But the other political parties oppose it.”

In response, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “I welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to give the British people that chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first.”

Back in the North-East, a priest was spared jail after living the high life and spending more than £50,000 of church money.

Father John Reid, priest at St Cuthbert’s Church, Chester-le-Street, faced Durham Crown Court charged with fraud.

The 69-year-old priest joined the parish in 2009.

Jane Waugh, prosecuting, said: “This would appear to be because Gillian, Alice and Veronica Leddy, who are mother and daughters and close friends of the defendant from his previous parish at Willington, were effectively living at the presbytery and the defendant’s expenditure increased to reflect he was helping to support them financially.”

Over the four years he was at St Cuthbert’s, his basic remuneration should have totalled £31,445.

However, the priest disbursed to himself more then £113,000 from parish cheques.

Ms Waugh said: “Clearly his household accounts suggest that a family was being supported by the parish, not just a parish priest.”

Fr Reid was ordered to pay £57,527 in compensation to the church and £1,500 in court costs.