EXACTLY 150 years ago this week, the Echo’s sister paper, the Darlington & Stockton Times, printed a story that is inescapable once you’ve read the headline: “A faithless wife: rumoured elopement at West Hartlepool”.

The article began: “On Sunday afternoon, a coloured American, named William Williams, belonging to Pennsylvania, made his way to West Hartlepool police station requesting advice as to how he was to proceed, his wife having eloped with another man on Saturday afternoon.”

The unfortunate Mr Williams had been living in Hartlepool for eight months, working at a timber merchants. He had saved £25 with which, six weeks ago, he had married a young Hartlepool woman, set up home with her and purchased her plenty of clothes with a view to the pair of them going home to Pennsylvania.

“About a month after the marriage, the husband happened to go home one day quite unexpected, and he was very much astonished to find a man lying in the bed smoking and reading to his faithless wife who was seated at the bedside,” said the D&S.

“In answer to the question who the visitor was, the loving wife replied that it was ‘only a cousin’.”

Mr Williams appears to have accepted this explanation, but returned home a couple of days later to find “his loved one had fled and taken all the moveables out of the house, including £3 and two suits of clothes, thus leaving her husband as destitute as possible”, said the D&S. “The ‘cousin’ was found to be one of the old sweethearts of Mrs Williams, and it was thought they had eloped together.”

The police don’t seem to have done much to assist Mr Williams – except spread his embarrassing story.