A VILLAGE was in mourning today for a woman who died after a tragic accident on holiday in Egypt.

Householders in Wiganthorpe, between York and Malton, paid tribute to Valerie Hewitt, who is said to have been killed in a freak accident while riding a camel.

Mrs Hewitt, a garden designer, suffered serious head injuries after being thrown from the camel, which was startled as Mrs Hewitt was taking part in an organised ride.

The mother-of-two was treated in intensive care after slipping into a deep coma after the accident. She died on October 9.

Mrs Hewitt lived in the small community of Wiganthorpe, a group of converted farm buildings just outside Terrington.

No one from the family could be contacted by the Evening Press today, but tributes were paid to Mrs Hewitt by her friends and neighbours.

Ryedale district councillor Robert Wainwright, whose Hovingham ward includes Terrington, said the community's thoughts were with Mrs Hewitt's husband, Brian, and the couple's children, Amanda and Samantha.

Coun Wainwright said: "Wiganthorpe is a very small community, I am sure it will be saddened by the loss of Valerie and that community members will all support Mr Hewitt and his family through this trauma."

Of the accident, Coun Wainwright said: "She was riding on a camel. The camel was startled by something and she fell off the back of it."

Retired farmer John Henley, who has lived in Wiganthorpe for 42 years, said Mrs Hewitt was "the life and soul of the party".

He said: "She was a very active, lively person, taking part in everything that went on around here. It is a very close-knit community here.

"Valerie was a friendly, very likeable woman. She is going to be badly missed."

A national call for healing help was put out over the internet in the days after Mrs Hewitt's accident.

A website called www.healthypages.co.uk carried a request from a family friend for "distant healing" to help the injured woman.

A number of responses followed, with several people posting on the site promising to try to help using the ancient healing art Reiki.

Scarborough coroner's officer Sandra Pennick confirmed today that Mrs Hewitt's body had been flown back to the UK from Egypt.

She said she was waiting for the formal identification procedure to be completed.

A post-mortem examination was taking place today, she added.

Updated: 11:05 Tuesday, October 21, 2003