STAFF at Taunton's premier hotel have been left stunned by the sudden death of a "very special" colleague.

Head receptionist Kim Pavey was the first face guests saw on arrival at The Castle Hotel and the last person they saw on leaving.

Kim, who was in her 50s and lived in Staplegrove, leaves a husband, Adrian; children Daniel and Heidi; parents Mike and Rose; sister Chloe; a grandmother in her 100th year and several other family members.

She died after being taken ill while shopping in the town shortly after completing a shift at the Castle after Christmas.

She was tended by a nurse who happened to be in the store at the time until an ambulance arrived to take her to Musgrove Park Hospital.

Kim was subsequently transferred to hospital in Bristol, where she died on December 30 following an emergency operation.

Hotel director Kit Chapman has paid tribute to Kim, who worked there for 11 years.

He said: "She was a most wonderful person and the finest head receptionist we have ever had.

"She had all the qualities we think essential for a good hostess welcoming people to the Castle Hotel.

"She embraced all our values of personal service, going the extra mile, making people feel at home.

"She was a remarkable woman. A wonderful hostess."

Mr Chapman added: "People checking in would be greeted by a huge smile and made to feel very welcome.

"Kim made sure people felt comfortable and at home. She was everything you could wish for.

"She was respected and loved by all the staff and all our clients who got to know her.

"Her death was a terrible shock to all of us. Kim was a very special person. She was gentle and kind and reached out to people.

"Our thoughts are with her family at this difficult time."

A celebration of Kim's life is being held at Taunton Deane Crematorium on Thursday (January 13) at 3pm, with arrangements by Quantock Funeral Services.

Donations in her memory can be made to Brain Research UK.

The Castle Hotel, which is currently closed for refurbishment, will open specially to host a wake following the service at the crematorium.