HUNDREDS of people gathered to pay their last respects to a North Yorkshire postmistress who was the victim of a brutal murder.

Almost seven weeks ago the body of Diana Garbutt was found in the living quarters of the North Yorkshire post office and shop she ran with husband Robin in Melsonby, near Richmond.

Yesterday, Mrs Garbutt’s grieving mother and sister gathered with other family members outside the village store waiting for her coffin to arrive. After the hearse pulled up, the family walked slowly behind as the vehicle made the short journey to St James’s Church, Melsonby.

Hundreds of friends and villagers – about 300 by one count – were already inside.

Agnes Gaylor, Mrs Garbutt’s mother, who runs the Boot and Shoe pub in Gowdall, near Selby, was visibly upset and was comforted by others as the coffin was removed and carried through the churchyard.

Diana, who grew up in the Selby area and later lived with her husband in York, was found dead on March 23, after police responded to reports of a robbery.

Mr Garbutt, 44, has since been charged with murder and appeared in court, where his barrister indicated he would deny the accusation.

At the funeral, flowers which accompanied the coffin included messages of sympathy. One read: “From all your colleagues at the post office.”Another said: “Dear Diana, always missed, never forgotten.”

Inside, the Rev Stan Haworth told the packed church that he had been asked many times in recent weeks about the small villages reaction to the violent death of Mrs Garbutt.

His reply was always the same: “Bewilderment.” The vicar said the service was a time to “give thanks” for Mrs Garbutt’s life, adding it was also a chance to “comfort one another in the hour of need”. He described Mrs Garbutt as a “special person who had touched so many lives”.

Speaking for Mrs Gaylor, he said: “I can’t imagine my life without Diana. She loved a party and a good laugh; that’s how I will remember Diana – always laughing."