A SUBPOSTMASTER accused of murdering his wife has lost an appeal against his conviction.

Court of Appeal judges today rejected Robin Garbutt's bid to clear his name for the killing of wife Diana at the Melsonby shop and post office the couple ran together.

The decision means the 46-year-old must complete the life sentence with a 20-year minimum term he was handed at Teesside Crown Court last year.

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Speaking after the ruling by Lord Justice Hughes, sitting with Mr Justice Hedley and Mr Justice Maddison, the man who led the investigation, Detective Superintendent Lewis Raw, said: "We are satisfied with the Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold Robin Garbutt’s conviction and hope that this final outcome allows Diana’s family to put a very traumatic and devastating period behind them and that they can now begin to rebuild their lives.”

At a hearing last week, lawyers acting for the subpostmaster revealed new evidence which they claimed made the conviction unsafe.

Garbutt's legal team produced documents which they said cast doubt on the prosecution case that the appellant was a thief.

The historic financial records for the post office at Melsonby, near Richmond, were never shown to the jury which convicted Garbutt.

Although the information was requested before the trial at Teesside Crown Court, they were only obtained after the 10-2 majority guilty verdict had been returned.

At the trial, prosecutors pointed to post office records for the 15 months before the murder which showed the couple had not returned any cash notes to headquarters, despite apparently keeping unusually large amounts of money in the safe. They suggested no cash had been returned because the Garbutts had used it to fund a lavish lifestyle.

However, the new records showed no notes had been returned since the couple bought the post office in 2004. They also revealed the branch often had large amounts of money in the safe prior to 2008, when an audit found it contained the correct funds.

Jamie Hill QC, representing Garbutt, as he did at the trial, claimed the new evidence "cast a shadow" over the prosecution case and would have "changed the dynamic of the trial".

He said: "It's our submission that this was a strand which allowed the jury to go straight to a conviction. If Mr Garbutt was the thief, the money was there, there was no robber and so he must have killed his wife."

He said it was the defence submission that the post office was run chaotically rather than dishonestly, adding: "If he's not a thief, he's a different man in the eyes of the jury."

In response, prosecutor David Hatton QC said there was "strong and cogent" evidence against the appellant.

He added: "This was an overwhelming case, we submit, in that there was a vast body of evidence against the proposition that there was an intruder.

"If there had been no intruder then it must follow that the defendant had been responsible for the death of Mrs Garbutt."

Mr Hatton pointed to other evidence he said supported the prosecution case.

Why had the intruder stopped mid-flight to place the murder weapon on a high wall outside the premises, he asked.

He also pointed out that Garbutt failed to press the post office panic buttons during the "raid".

Mrs Garbutt, 40, was found dead in the living quarters of the village shop and post office on March 23, 2010. Police and paramedics initially responded to reports of an armed robbery.

In the days after the alleged raid, detectives appealed for help to catch a man wearing a balaclava and armed with a gun.

However, her husband was arrested on suspicion of murder three weeks later.