Woman found dead in village post office

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The Independent Online

Police were today investigating the sudden death of a woman at a post office in a quiet village amid reports of a robbery at the property.

Officers were called to the post office in the centre of the village of Melsonby, near Richmond, North Yorkshire, at around 8.30am today.

North Yorkshire Police issued a statement which said: "Police were called by the ambulance service to the sudden death of a woman in her forties at a property in Melsonby this morning.

"The woman was pronounced dead at the scene by ambulance staff.

"Police are carrying out a detailed examination of the scene to establish the exact circumstances surrounding her death. This will include speaking to witnesses at the scene of the incident.

"The road leading to the property has been closed and is expected to remain closed for at least 24 hours."

Officers could not comment on local reports that police had been called to a robbery at the property.

This afternoon, the area around the post office was sealed off with police vehicles parked outside.

Today's incident comes just over a year after the business - called The Village Shop and Post Office - was targeted by armed robbers.

Two men, one armed with what appeared to be a handgun, threatened staff in March last year.

Police said at the time that the pair went into the premises at about 8.30am and left with a large book of first-class stamps and some cash.

A man working in the shop was left shocked but unharmed.

The stone-built premises stands at the corner of East Road, in the tiny village, which is just off the A1, a few miles north of the town of Richmond.

There was no visible sign of damage or disturbance in front of the post office.

A number of police officers were outside the premises while others conducted door-to-door inquiries in the one main street.

A small garage is the only other business in the village.

People in the village said the post office is owned and run by Diane and Robin Garbutt.

Bill Nixon, who owns Nixon's Garage opposite the post office, said he thought there had been either a robbery or a shooting.

But he said he could not think of any reason why anybody would want to rob the post office.

"They sold stamps and other stuff, not a lot of things. Why anyone would want to go in there I don't know," said Mr Nixon.

"Maybe somebody cased the joint, I just don't know."

Mr Nixon said he thought the incident happened at around 8.30am. He was at the garage at that time but did not hear anything unusual.

He said: "I was just here and all the kids were down there, about 38 to 40 kids. They get their sweets and that from the shop.

"I had a contractor coming to see me. I told him to park his van across the road and then I had another customer and within a few minutes I heard the ambulance come. I thought 'that's strange', then all hell broke loose."

Linda Ling, who works part-time in the shop and lives in a cottage diagonally opposite, said the couple were "dead lovely".

She said: "A dead lovely couple, just very devoted, that's all I can say.

"I feel very sorry for Robin, I don't know how he'll go on without her."

Ms Ling said she thought Mr and Mrs Garbutt were both in their early 40s and had been married for around five or six years.

She also said she did not see or hear anything to signal a disturbance.

She said: "I never heard a thing.

"I opened my curtains around 8.15am this morning and saw the kids waiting for the bus, went to make my bed and then saw the ambulance."

Ms Ling said: "I just hope they catch them this time."

Two young women came to lay a bunch of flowers each at the scene.

Visibly upset, they said the small close-knit community was shocked at the death.

One of the women, who did not want to be named, said: "They were the nicest people you could ever meet, the most genuine people.

"All the kids round here just loved them."

She also said there was no reason to believe anything was wrong with the couple's relationship and said they were supposed to be going on holiday in a few weeks.

Another resident, who did not want to be named, said he thought the couple moved to Melsonby around seven years ago from the York area but did contemplate leaving after last year's robbery in which, he said, £10,000 or £11,000 was stolen.