Transatlantic man hunt boost for Echo's website

The Gloucestershire Echo helped a lovestruck woman who had travelled thousands of miles to track down a Cheltenham-based man she met on an internet dating site, by splashing his picture on its front page.

Deborah Diston, 34, from Maine in the US, flew across the Atlantic to meet 26-year-old Paul Johnston in Cheltenham after a psychic medium told her someone in her life was about to die.

The pair met on dating site Big is Beautiful last year and have been emailing each other for seven months. When the emails from Paul stopped coming, Distin feared the worst and contacted the Echo to help her find him.

The paper splashed the story on page one with a picture of Johnston and the headline: "Where's my runaway Romeo?"

A puzzled Johnston contacted the paper at 8.30am the next day to say that he was alive and well, and did not want to speak to Diston. The Echo ran a second front page story the day after with the headline: "Meet Romeo."

He told the paper: "I haven't emailed Deborah for a year. I'm bewildered she has flown over here to find me."

"Our conversations were nothing more than the ‘Hi, how are you' kind of thing. I spoke to a few people on [the site], but I never met up with anyone. I stopped using the site when I left university and came to Cheltenham."

The Echo gave him Deborah's mobile number, but he has not yet decided whether he will contact her.

Editor Anita Syvret said the story attracted record traffic to the paper's website — and had three times as man visitors as any other Echo story.

"It was extraordinary. She just walked in the office with a picture of a man she was trying to find. For us it was just a good story.

"The hits on the website were amazing and that says a lot about the people who read the website… they are very different from the people that read the paper."

The Echo has taken down readers' comments on the story, some of which gave details of Johnston's private life and were abusive to Diston.

Meanwhile Diston, though relieved to find out Johnston was alive, told the Echo: "I think I'm kind of fed up with all men at the moment, not just British guys."

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