Shopkeeper Robin Garbutt, who was found guilty of bludgeoning his postmistress wife to death in a remote North Yorkshire village, today lost a Court of Appeal challenge against his murder conviction.
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.
At a recent hearing at the Court of Appeal in London 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.
Today, three judges in London said that his conviction was safe.
At a recent hearing Lord Justice Hughes, Mr Justice Hedley and Mr Justice Maddison heard argument on Garbutt’s behalf that his conviction should now be regarded as unsafe in the light of newly disclosed material - Post Office accounting records going back to 2004 - which it was said supported the credibility of his evidence.
Announcing the court’s decision to reject the challenge, Lord Justice Hughes said Garbutt’s case was founded on the emergence of evidence which was not before the jury because its existence was unknown.
He said: “It affects, and is said to undermine, one part of the evidence heard by the jury at the trial.
“It is quite clear that the evidence was not available at the trial. It takes the form of accounting records from the headquarters of the Post Office and its accuracy is not in dispute. The issue is as to its significance.”
Lord Justice Hughes said the prosecution’s case was that “there could never have been an intruder” - there was no robbery and it followed that Garbutt had killed his wife.
He added: “Contrary to the impressions of the local people, there were at least two potential sources of tension and conflict between the spouses - Mrs Garbutt’s interest in other men and strained finances.
“The Crown asserted, moreover, that the Post Office record-keeping was full of irregularities. It was known that there was nothing in the safe after the death was discovered.
“Said the Crown, the explanation for that could not be robbery but could be, and was, theft over a period, in which the defendant was implicated.”
The fresh material relied on in the appeal related to Post Office records going back to 2004.
It was submitted on Garbutt’s behalf that the pattern shown by the records “cannot be relied upon as demonstrating thefts of Post Office cash”.
Had the jury had the full records “it would have supported the defendant in something that he said, namely that he had always held large sums in the safe, and the jury would have been likely to take a different view of his credibility generally”.
Lord Justice Hughes said: “The premise on which this appeal has so well been argued is that the jury may have proceeded from theft to murder.
“We have asked ourselves anxiously whether that might be so. We are clear that it cannot be.”
He said the court was “quite satisfied that the possibility of there having been the robbery which the defendant described must have been rejected quite independently of the financial evidence”.
The judge concluded: “We are quite satisfied that this conviction is not unsafe and that the late disclosure of the additional Post Office records does not render it so.
“The appeal must accordingly be dismissed.”