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‘No leads’ in grandmother murder case five years on

Valerie Graves was found dead on December 30 2013 while house-sitting in West Sussex.

Valerie Graves was found dead in December 2013 (Sussex Police)
Valerie Graves was found dead in December 2013 (Sussex Police)

The family of a grandmother murdered as she house-sat for friends five years ago have said they fear the killer may never be caught.

Valerie Graves was found bludgeoned to death in bed at around 10am on December 30 2013, in the ground floor bedroom of a £1.6 million house by the sea in Bosham, West Sussex.

The 55-year-old artist’s ex-partner Roy Wood, father to her children Tim Wood and Jemima Harrison, said on the fifth anniversary of her death that no-one had given up hope but there was a sense police had exhausted all lines of inquiry.

His comments come after Sussex Police confirmed it had ended a huge DNA screening programme which saw almost 3,000 men tested. But detectives pledged to continue investigating the unsolved murder.

Mr Wood, of Portslade, East Sussex, said: “They’ve done pretty much all they can do.

“I don’t feel there’s much more they can do.”

He said the family had avoided discussing the investigation when they all met last week for a festive meal, adding: “It’s difficult.

“People expect there will be answers immediately but not when it’s something as random as this.”

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Valerie Graves’ children Tim and Jemima and her sister’s partner Nigel Acres during a press conference (Sussex Police/PA)

He previously described society as having an expectation that crimes were “solved in six episodes” like in a television drama.

He added: “It doesn’t happen like that in real life.

“We are just waiting and hoping that one day we will know what happened.”

The killing was dubbed the “Midsomer Murder” as the seaside village near Chichester featured in an episode of the ITV drama.

Ms Graves had recently moved from Scotland to Bracklesham Bay.

She died just days after her birthday while house-sitting at the Smuggler’s Lane mansion – with her mother Eileen, her sister Jan and her sister’s partner Nigel Acres – for family friends the Chamberlains who were on holiday in Costa Rica for Christmas.

Last seen alive at around 10pm the night before, there were no signs of a struggle.

But a post-mortem examination found she had severe head injuries after being hit with a claw hammer, probably at around midnight.

Officers found the weapon 600 metres from the house in Hoe Lane.

Water had washed away most traces of evidence apart from Ms Graves’ DNA and a partial profile indicating the suspected killer was a man, but no match for this profile has been found.

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Police at the house in Smuggler’s Lane, Bosham, West Sussex, where Ms Graves was murdered (Chris Ison/PA)

The police force launched one of the biggest investigations in its history, initially saying officers were confident they would catch the killer.

But the case remains unsolved despite an exhaustive forensic search and the massive voluntary screening in which all men over the age of 17 who lived, worked or visited the village were asked to provide a sample and thumbprint to eliminate themselves from the inquiry.

Some 2,819 samples were taken with no match found.

A 22-year-old man was arrested in 2014 and released without charge. An inquest in 2016 ruled her death was an unlawful killing.

A £10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction is still being offered and DNA samples will continue to be taken when relevant, a police spokesman said.

Chief Superintendent Jason Taylor said: “Officers and staff from the investigation team remain determined to find Valerie’s killer five years on and to get justice for her and her family.

“We continue to do everything reasonably possible to achieve this.”

Anyone with information should call 101 quoting Operation Ensign or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

PA

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