THE idyllic rural village of Hambledon offers a picturesque view of rural life in Hampshire.
But a dark cloud has landed over the village after the suspected murder of Joanna Thompson on Monday in her home.
The popular mum of two – renowned for her caring nature – was found dead in her Vicarage Lane apartment, a 16th century converted pub.
Police arrested a teenager on suspicion of murder, and the incident has rocked the community of the upmarket hamlet.
It has a quintessentially English feel with the place featuring a shop, village hall, church and pub nestled between a number of 16th and 17th century houses and manor farm barn.
It is rare to have trouble here. So rare, in fact, that there is a commemoration up one of the valleys adjacent to the village where the last murder took place - in the 1800s.
No wonder people are still struggling to come to terms with what’s happened in the normally peaceful place, home to around 1,000 residents.
Hambledon, on the surface at least, appears to be back to normal. There is no police, no forensics and no crime scene any more. Looks can be deceptive though.
Outside the front door of Ms Thompson’s house lies a vigil and flowers with heartfelt messages. One read: ‘Jo, RIP sorry we couldn’t have done more.’
A neighbour down the lane said: ‘Jo was a lovely lady and I’m so sorry it came to this.
‘It’s a very quiet lane in a sleepy village. Everyone is still shocked. There’s a real community spirit here. When someone’s partner died recently the whole village came out for it.’
Residents who lived in the adjoining converted pub where Ms Thompson died two days ago were too upset to talk, apart from to say she was ‘lovely’.
But other locals summed up the feeling. ‘It’s still just sheer disbelief and is hard to get one’s head around it,’ one man said.
‘It’s the sort of place where there are lots of clubs and societies for such a small place. We have the annual Hambledon Hilly 10km race which Jo took part in - she was a keen runner.
‘The village is the birthplace of cricket and in the late 1780s, Hambledon beat a team made up of players from the rest of the country. They even refined the game by adding the middle stump.’
Hambledon has been long known as a picture-postcard village with an enviable community life. The floods of winter 2014, which saw the main street underwater for weeks were evidence of this, with villagers displaying a united front, great organisation and admirable determination to overcome adversity.
There are signs that the shock and grief triggered by this tragedy has also united the village – but for a reason that nobody wanted.