Post office killer bids to clear his name at appeal

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A SHOPKEEPER convicted of bludgeoning his wife to death in their bedroom above the village post office they ran in North Yorkshire has launched a legal challenge to clear his name.

Robin Garbutt, 46, was jailed for life in April last year and ordered to serve a minimum of 20 years behind bars before he can apply for parole.

But Garbutt yesterday launched an appeal against the “unsafe” murder conviction with his relatives continuing a high-profile campaign protesting his innocence.

His wife, Diane, was battered with an iron bar in the living quarters above the post office she ran with her husband in Melsonby in March 2010.

But Garbutt’s sister, Sallie Wood, has maintained her brother has been the victim of a “terrible miscarriage of justice”.

The convicted killer was present in the dock at the Court of Appeal in London yesterday for the proceedings which were heard before three leading judges.

It was argued on his behalf that his conviction should now be regarded as unsafe in the light of newly disclosed material, which it was said supported the credibility of his evidence.

At his trial, jurors at Teesside Crown Court heard that he battered his 40-year-old wife to death in their bedroom before opening their post office and shop in the village of Melsonby as normal.

Garbutt had claimed a raider with a gun told him “don’t do anything stupid, we’ve got your wife” before robbing him as he worked, and that moments later he discovered his wife’s body in bed in their living quarters.

When sentencing Garbutt, the trial judge, Mr Justice Openshaw, said his version of events was a “ludicrous story from beginning to end”.

Opposing the appeal move yesterday, the prosecution told Lord Justice Hughes, Mr Justice Hedley and Mr Justice Maddison, there was “strong and cogent” evidence “demonstrating that there was no intruder” and that the fresh material did not impact on the safety of the conviction.

After the submissions on behalf of Garbutt and the Crown, the judges at the Court of Appeal hearing reserved their decision to a date yet to be fixed.

Garbutt’s relatives have remained adamant that he is innocent since the jury at Teesside Crown Court convicted him of murder by a 10-2 majority.

Ms Wood has promised to fight for her brother’s innocence “until my dying day”.

She revealed in November last year that Garbutt had received more than 500 letters and cards in prison and had the support of “prayer groups around the world praying that justice will be done”.

However, Mrs Garbutt’s mother, Agnes Gaylor, spoke out at the end of the trial and claimed that her family was still coming to terms with her daughter’s murder.

She maintained that she would not be thinking of her son-in-law as he started the life sentence, and added: “I am not letting him into my head.”

The trial had heard that Mr and Mrs Garbutt’s village store was running at a loss and was being kept afloat by cash which Garbutt was stealing from the post office’s safe.

The trial judge said he was satisfied that the cash came from Garbutt stealing from the post office safe and the motive for the murder was his fear of exposure.

paul.jeeves@ypn.co.uk