SOUTHAMPTON athlete Donna Hartley-Wass has died suddenly at the age of 58.

Once hailed the golden girl of British athletics, Donna, who ran under her maiden name Donna Murray, passed away unexpectedly as she sunbathed in her back garden.

It was her husband of 26 years, actor and comedian Bobby Knutt, who made the tragic discovery yesterday at their home in Yorkshire.

During her glittering athletic career Donna won double gold at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada, in the individual 400m and 4x400m relay.

She also won a bronze at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow for the 4x400m relay.

She was made an MBE by the Queen in 1979.

Later she became a body builder and was crowned the sport's Miss Great Britain.

Donna married fellow athlete Bill Hartley but they divorced in the early 1980s.

In 1984 she met Bobby Knutt at Butlins, and they wed three years later.

Throughout her athletics career she was coached by Southampton based Mike Smith, who went on to guie the careers of stars such as Roger Black and Iwan Thomas,

A post mortem to establish what caused Donna's death is expected to take place early next week.