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The case of De Lautour v. De Lautour and Lees, heard before Mr Justice Richmond at Wellington yesterday, was a petition by the husband for a dissolution of marriage on the ground of adultery with James Lees. Neither the respondent nor co-respondent was represented. Bertrand Edgar De Lautour, petitioner, a surgeon practising at Tapamii, deposed that he was married to respondent (who├če maiden name was Rose Haughton) in England on 4th July, 1872. They came to the colony in ISS2, and lived together at Caversham and Port Chalmers, and finally at Tapanui. There were nine children the issue of the marriage. About 1886 respondent became addicted to drink, and witness sent her to a friend's boarding house in Dunedin, where she would be prevented from indulging in liquor. She returned after nine weeks, and, though claiming to be thoroughly reformed, arrived home in a state of intoxication. She stat-: d that in Dunedin too many people knew her, and asked that she be sent to Invercargill, where she would be amongst strangers, whereas at Tapanui she felt she must drink in order to drown the sense of disgraoe she had brought upon herself. Witness agreed that she should go to Invercargill, but at the end of a week she returned in a violent and excited condition, and begged him to send her away from New Zealand. She suggested that in Melbourne, where there would be entirely new surroundings, she would have every chance of overcoming her propensity to drink. Witness was willing to make any sacrifice to assist her, and so he agreed that she should go to Melbourne, and allowed her L 5 per month. After she had left,ft letter came from Melbourne addrts-c'.dio her, and signed "Jim." Witness recognised this as being from James Lees, a lawyer's clerk, whosa acquaintance they had made at Port Chalmers, and who had become intimate with the family. Lees was only about twenty-four years old, and much nearer the age of witness's children than that of his wife. He often visited thera for two days while they lived at Tapanui, but witness never had reason to suspect any impropriety. At the end of 1887 Lees "went to Melbourne. Witness never had any suspicion until the letter addressed to his wife came from Melbourne. Later on another letter came to witness, which had been sent to his wife at the Invercargill Post Office. Respondent wrote several times to the children after she went to Melbourne, giving directions how they were to dispose of letters that came for her signed " Jim." Witness employed a private detective in Melbourne to find out his wife's address, which she had withheld, but he did not succeed. Witness consulted his brother, who is a solicitor, and decided to take the present proceedings, but was unable to find respondeat to serve the citation. In May last, however, she returned unexpectedly to New Zealand, and came up to Tapanui. She was suffering from the effects of drink, and very violent in her behaviour. Witness removed his children, and went to a hotel himself. Next day respondent left the place, but the citation had been served upon her. She wrote to the solicitor who served the papers, admitting that she was guilty of adultery, but asking that petitioner would not increase her shame by having the case heard at Dunedin, and that her passage should be paid to Australia. His Honor considered that the misconduct was fully proved. He questioned petitioner at some length as to why he had not taken steps to have his wife treated in an asylum for dipsomania. explanation of petitioner was that he was advised that this could not be done without the patient's consent. His Honor thought it strange that petitioner could have expected his wife to remain faithful when he turned her out in a great city like Melbourne. He could not grant the decree, without consideration at all events, He was well satisfied with the proof of adultery, and could see from the letters that in other ways respondent was an unworthy person, and not fit to be at the head of a family; but the husband could not be absolved from blame as to his treatment of her, and there was a doubt in His Honor's mind as to whether the blame was not strong enough to warrant him in refusing a decree. Mr Brown asked His Honor to consider whether there was not evidence in Lees's letters that the misconduct occurred long before co-respondent went to Melbourne. His Honor said there was no doubt something in that, and he would consider the matter.

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Bibliographic details

A DIVORCE CASE., Evening Star, Issue 8045, 23 October 1889

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A DIVORCE CASE. Evening Star, Issue 8045, 23 October 1889