Police end mass DNA screening in hunt for killer of Valerie Graves

Detectives investigating the unsolved murder of Valerie Graves have ended a huge DNA screening which saw almost 3,000 men tested.

As the search for her killer enters its fifth year, Sussex Police said they are no longer carrying out their biggest voluntary mass screening, which led to 2,819 DNA samples being taken with no match found.

The grandmother 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, near Chichester.

Valerie Graves death
Valerie Graves death

The force launched the screening in 2015, asking all men over the age of 17 who lived, worked or visited the village to provide a sample and thumbprint to eliminate themselves from the investigation.

A police spokesman said they will continue to follow all lines of enquiry and take DNA samples when relevant.

Ms Graves was murdered as she house-sat the mansion with her sister Jan, mother Eileen and her sister’s partner, Nigel Acres, while the property’s owners were holidaying in Costa Rica for Christmas.

The 55-year-old artist, a mother-of-two, was 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 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’s DNA and a partial profile indicating the suspected killer was a man, but no match for this profile has been 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.

The death was nicknamed the “Midsomer Murder” as the seaside village featured in an episode of the ITV drama.

Police are still offering a £10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction and renewed their appeal as the anniversary of her death approaches.

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.”

Ms Graves’s family said: “We would also urge anyone with any information about Valerie’s death to come forward and contact police or Crimestoppers.”

Anyone with information which may help the investigation is asked to call 101 and quote Operation Ensign or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.