CRUEL and ruthless raiders have wrecked Michelle Gray’s life for the princely sum of £10.

That’s all masked intruders got away with after smashing their way into the village tearoom that had been her dream come true.

But this was the third attack on the cafe and Post Office Michelle has been running in Thurgoland.

And it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Enough was enough.

Now, fearful and lacking confidence, she and her husband, Duncan, have put the property up for sale - leaving the rural community without a Post Office and what had become a popular social hub.

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The community has been left stunned by what has happened.

Parish Council chairman Bob Blythe said: “I know I speak for everyone when I say what a shame this is.”

Michelle herself says she feels ‘guilty’ for letting people down by selling up.

It was nearly two years ago that Michelle and Duncan embarked on their dream of running a village Post Office, linked to a tearoom/cafe. The previous autumn, they had relocated from East Anglia to be near family in Wombwell.

They refurbished the premises in Roper Lane and in March 2018 launched the Copper Kettle.

But there was drama even on the day of the official opening when intruders tried to get into the house during the early hours. Michelle was jolted but didn’t want to say too much for fear of attracting more attention from the wrong quarters.

In the months that followed, the cafe and branch went from strength to strength and Michelle was named as a top performer in the 2018 Post Office retail sales awards.

Then on August 3 this year, masked men got in and put a knife to her face. Michelle screamed for Duncan and the raiders fled empty-handed.

“They had tried to get money which was why I was threatened,” she said. “That just ruined me. We decided after several weeks of soul-searching that enough was enough. It was too dangerous to stay. We live on the premises and twice we had been threatened.”

Reluctantly, the couple put their property up for sale.

Then, unbelievably, masked men struck again - almost three months to the day since the previous attack. Arriving after the tearoom had closed, they kicked in the door.

“Two tried to get money and one was guarding the door,” said Michelle. “Another man was in a getaway car across the road.

“They took £10. That’s all there was. They ruined our lives for £10. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“We contacted Post Office who agreed we could close the branch straight away. So Thurgoland Post Office no longer operates from here.

“The Post Office are looking to see what temporary arrangements can be made so the community does not lose out. And an outreach service is possible. They have taken immediate steps towards finding a permanent solution.”

Michelle hasn’t been able to reopen the tearoom because she doesn’t have a front door. But she hopes to have the popular cafe back in business on Monday.

“We will then run it until such time as we sell the property,” she said.

“It should have been a wonderful dream come true. Utterly. And it has been taken from us by these three events,” she said.

Two suspects relating to the knife incident are on remand while other suspects are still being sought by police.

Michelle said it had ‘knocked the stuffing’ out of her, but the community has been ‘wonderful’.

“I know there will be a lot of people with limited availability to transport concerned about losing their post office and I can only apologise.

“There was nothing more we could do. We had CCTV and an alarm and it still happened.

“After the August attack I became a nervous wreck. If someone came to the door that I didn’t know I had palpitations. I felt it would happen again but not so soon.

“It has destroyed me. I have no confidence. I’m not the person I used to be.

“But the real sadness I feel is that the tearoom had become what I always wanted it to be. It was getting more and more popular.

“It was a hub for the village. They have tried to take it away but I will keep it open as long as I can. I just can’t live here any longer.

“I thank the community for their kindness. The flowers, cards and hugs and social media support.”