A YEAR before the murder of Diana Garbutt, an armed robbery was reported at Melsonby post office.

Sub-postmaster Robin Garbutt told police two men, one brandishing a gun, threatened him and left with more than £10,000.

At the time, he declined to talk to The Northern Echo, but was said by police to be “shocked, but unharmed”.

No one was ever arrested for the raid and the incident is still logged by police as an unsolved crime.

But yesterday’s conviction of the sub-postmaster for the murder of his wife raises new questions about the earlier robbery.

Was it real or, like the raid a year later, was it a fake to cover another crime?

Throughout the murder trial, the issue of whether the first raid took place was deliberately ignored by the prosecution.

Although the jury never heard it, David Hatton QC, prosecuting, said he was not taking a view on the issue, later briefly suggesting that the earlier raid had given Garbutt the idea for the alibi for his wife’s murder.

However, the similarities between the two reports are obvious with both supposedly happening on a Tuesday, at about 8.30am, after the school bus had left.

A witness called by the post office reported another similarity.

In the months leading up to both reported raids, Post Office Limited recorded an increase in requests from the Melsonby branch for extra money to be delivered.

It may never be known if the requests in 2009 were needed to replace cash Garbutt had stolen, as police believe occurred in the run-up to Mrs Garbutt’s murder.

But if the earlier robbery was also a fake, it raises the possibility that, had police discovered this at the time, a murder could have been prevented.