A RENEWED appeal for help was issued by the police yesterday as the fifth anniversary of a grandmother’s brutal murder in Bosham.
Valerie Graves, 55, a popular artist, arrived to house sit at a property in Smugglers Lane, with her mother, Eileen, just days before Christmas to celebrate the holidays and Valerie’s birthday.
Valerie’s sister, Jan, and her sister’s partner, Nigel Akers, arrived shortly afterwards. The mansion belonged to the Chamberlains, friends of Nigel’s, who were holidaying in Costa Rica with their children.
Several members of her family and friends visited the house over this time and enjoyed both the Christmas celebrations and Valerie’s birthday, which was on Christmas Day.
As the festive period drew to a close, the family were preparing to return to their own homes but remained at the house on the evening of December 29. Valerie was staying in a ground-floor bedroom at the back of the premises.
The following morning, on December 30, Valerie was found dead in her bedroom by her sister. She had suffered severe head and facial injuries.
A patio door, leading directly from the bedroom outside to the back of the premises, was found to be unlocked.
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.”
“We are still offering a £10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Valerie’s killer and I would ask anyone who has information to contact police.”
The killing of Valerie in December, 2013, remains one of the biggest murder investigations carried out by Sussex Police in recent years.
Her murder remains unsolved but detectives from the Surrey and Sussex major crime team are committed to finding her killer.
Valerie’s family said: “We would also urge anyone with any information about Valerie’s death to come forward and contact police or Crimestoppers.”
Police guarded the house as forensics officers began the painstaking challenge of collecting vital evidence. In the days after her murder, officers spent a significant time in the area, speaking to those living and working there, to gather information and witnesses.
Just days after the murder, a hammer was found by police search teams in Hoe Lane, at the entrance to the driveway of Hart’s Farm, approximately 600 metres away from the murder scene. It was confirmed as the weapon used to kill Valerie.
The 30cm length hammer has a distinctive red and black handle and is embossed with the words Forge Steel with a picture of an outline of an anvil.
On January 14, 2014, a 22-year-old local man was arrested on suspicion of the murder of Valerie. He was questioned and released on bail but eventually released without further action.
In November, 2014, detectives believed they had a breakthrough in the case. Forensic scientists had obtained a limited DNA profile for the suspect, which meant they could start requesting voluntary DNA samples to eliminate men from the investigation who lived and worked in the Bosham area, either permanently or as migrant workers.
Two months later, in January 2015, Sussex Police started the biggest voluntary mass DNA screening in its history of all men aged over 17 who lived or worked in Bosham. Despite collecting 2,819 DNA samples, no match was found.
Anyone with information about the murder of Valerie Graves is asked to report it online or ring 101 and quote Operation Ensign. They can alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or use its non-traceable anonymous online form.