A NORTH Yorkshire sub-postmaster was facing mounting debt problems at the time he allegedly beat his wife to death, a jury was told yesterday.

Despite earning less than £20,000 in 2009/10, Robin Garbutt and his wife, Diana, went on a string of luxury breaks.

Teesside Crown Court heard yesterday that in July 2009 the couple spent £1,206 on a four-night stay at The Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey. They returned to the hotel and spa the following month for a three-night break costing £844.

Detective Constable Karen Barugh said the couple went on five other breaks together in 2009, including trips to Amsterdam, Paris, Northumberland and York.

Garbutt, who denies murdering his wife, also went on a stag party trip to Spain. The couple were due to go on a three-week trip to the US the week after the murder, the court also heard.

Hotels in San Francisco, Beverly Hills and Las Vegas had been booked. They had paid more than £3,000 for the trip at the time of Mrs Garbutt’s death.

Teresa Bentley, North Yorkshire Police financial investigator, said Mr Garbutt had six credit cards, all with large and increasing balances, as well as an HSBC account which was always overdrawn.

The account for the store at The Village Shop and Post Office, in Melsonby, near Richmond, which they ran, was also consistently overdrawn, she said. A third joint account had a balance of about £6,000.

Mrs Bentley said this account was historically used to pay off a credit card in Mrs Garbutt’s name, used to pay for shop stock. At the time of her death, this card had a deficit of about £6,000, the court heard.

Mrs Bentley said: “On all the credit cards, they weren’t in arrears, regular payments were being made. However, it was only the minimum monthly payment.”

The jury was told the shop had a turnover of about £207,000 in 2009/10, yet made a profit of only £4,124. Mrs Garbutt also received a sub-postmistress income of £14,500.

Despite this modest income, cash payments totalling more than £17,000 were made to the couple’s accounts in the four months before the murder, Mrs Bentley said.

The court heard the couple bought the post office and shop for £153,000 in May 2003, but the business was put back on the market in 2006 for £450,000. Mrs Garbutt had ISAs worth more than £9,000 and Mr Garbutt had pension funds of more than £42,000, it emerged.

Under cross-examination from Jamie Hill QC, Mrs Bentley agreed the couple’s assets outstripped their debts.

Garbutt, 45, denies beating his unfaithful wife to death in her bed on March 23, last year. The trial continues.