A DISTRAUGHT former York man has told police how a masked man brandishing a gun told him: “We’ve got your wife.”

The robber then demanded cash and made off with a substantial amount of money in a holdall from a village post office at Melsonby, near Richmond.

Robin Garbutt, who lived in York and worked for Yortec Ltd in Layerthorpe before moving to Melsonby, said he then went to the upstairs living quarters and found his wife Diana dead with severe head injuries.

Police said she had not been shot.

About 30 police officers are involved in an investigation into Mrs Garbutt’s murder.

Detective Superintendent Louis Raw, who is leading the inquiry, said Mr Garbutt opened the store at 4.30am on Tuesday and worked downstairs in the shop, serving customers, before opening the post office at 8.30am.

Det Supt Raw said: “Just after he opened the post office counter, he was disturbed by a man who came from the living premises.”

He said the suspect was 5ft 11ins to 6ft tall, wearing a tight fitting black mask, a dark blue long-sleeved T-shirt and dark blue or black jeans, and was carrying a gun at his side.

He said the robber may have removed his mask after leaving the post office.

Det Supt Raw said: “This is a shocking crime, which has left Mr Garbutt distraught and the residents of Melsonby very shocked and saddened.

“Police are determined to bring Mrs Garbutt’s killer to justice. However, we need the assistance of members of the public who were in the area at the time to come forward.”

Officers were investigating a possible link with a robbery at the store almost exactly a year ago, which also took place on a Tuesday at about 8.30am and which also saw Mr Garbutt threatened by a man armed with a replica gun.

The weapon was later discovered at an undisclosed location, but no arrests were made.

Mr Garbutt’s mother, who is understood to live at Tholthorpe, near Easingwold, was unavailable for comment. His father is understood to live in the Clifton area of York, but on making inquiries at his home, The Press was told he did not wish to make any comment.

Villagers in Melsonby said the couple were devoted to each other and their business. About 30 bouquets of flowers had been laid at the scene by yesterday and children with parents on the morning school run handed over more floral tributes to officers.

Anyone who saw anything suspicious in Melsonby between 4am and 9am on Tuesday should phone the incident room on 01904 669576.