POLICE have launched a murder hunt after a North Yorkshire woman was found dead in a village post office.

The body of Diana Garbutt, believed to be formerly from York, was discovered after a robbery at the building in Melsonby, near Richmond, yesterday morning. A man wearing a balaclava stole what a police spokesman called a “substantial amount of cash”.

At 8.30am, North Yorkshire Police were called to the scene where the body Mrs Garbutt, 40, who lived in the post office, was found. According to the owner of Dixon’s Garage in Melsonby, Bill Nixon, she had moved to the village from York with her husband to run the post office and store.

As we went to press, detectives were remaining tight-lipped about how she died.

Roads around the post office were still cordoned off last night as forensic teams carried out detailed investigations.

Police officers carried out door-to-door inquiries during the day and remained at the scene overnight.

They appealed for anyone who had been in the village between 4am and 9am to come forward and issued a description of the robber. He was wearing a “tight balaclava over his face and was wearing a dark blue, long-sleeved t-shirt and dark blue/ black jeans”.

Last night, floral tributes had been laid at the scene. Two young women said the small close-knit community was shocked at the death.

One, 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.”

Another villager said the couple had moved north in 2003, while a relative said Mr Garbutt had also previously lived in the Hambleton area.

Yesterday’s incident came just over a year after the business 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 stand at the corner of East Road, in the tiny village, which is just off the A1.

There was no visible sign of damage or disturbance in front of the post office although a number of police officers were outside the premises.