LAST week’s Page in History featured the Echo’s front page from 90 years ago. At the foot of it was an intriguing paragraph headlined about a Kent director of education, Charles Lewis, who had disappeared.

When police broke into his home, they found the bodies of his wife, Maude, 20-year-old adopted daughter Freda and their pet terrier beneath the concrete of a lilypond he was constructing in the middle of the garden.

We are grateful to David Walsh in east Cleveland for having a detective’s nose to sniff out a great story with a local link…

Because police discovered that the three victims had been poisoned with potassium cyanide which Lewis had bought six weeks earlier when he started the excavations for his lilypond – this was obviously something he had been planning for some time.

Then they discovered that someone fitting his description – 60-years-old, gold rimmed spectacles, pronounced limp – had booked onto a coastal steamer at Wapping under the name of John Davidson.

They traced the captain of the steamer who had reached his destination of Edinburgh. He told them that in the night off Whitby, the crew believed they had lost a man overboard. They had lowered a boat to search but, in the depths of darkness, they had been unable to find anything.

The captain had reported the apparent loss of John Davidson as soon as he had docked at Leith, and handed over the passenger’s bag which he had left behind. When police broke into it, they were able to ascertain that John Davidson was really the missing director of education.

It transpired that the Kent education office was £600 short (about £42,000 today, according to the Bank of England Inflation Calculator).

The police and courts concluded that Lewis had killed his wife and his daughter, whom they had adopted after she lost both her parents on the Titanic in 1912 when she was a baby, and the unfortunate dog so they would never know his shame.

Then, to avoid humiliation and imprisonment, he followed his own plan to a watery end – or perhaps, given the meticulousness of his operation, he had slipped away quietly and unseen and started a new life on the east coast with his ill gotten small fortune?