Unsolved: The murder of Valerie Graves
The killing of Valerie Graves in Bosham, West Sussex, 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.
A £10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible still remains.
Below you can read about the investigation and see if you can help us.
In 2013 Valerie Graves, a 55-year-old mother and grandmother, moved from Scotland to Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex to live with and care for her elderly mother. Valerie was an artist and described by her family as a loving mother and grandmother and a ‘free spirit’.
What happened between 29 and 30 December 2013?
Over Christmas, Valerie, her mother, her sister and sister’s partner, were house-sitting for friends at a home in Smuggler’s Lane, Bosham. 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 the 29 December. Valerie was staying in a ground-floor bedroom at the back of the premises.
The following morning, on 30 December, 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.
The Manhunt and investigating the crime
Valerie’s murder shocked the community in Bosham and the rest of the county and country. The murder sparked one of the most significant investigations for Sussex Police in recent years.
Scene guards guarded the house as forensics began the pain-staking challenge of collecting vital evidence. In the days after her murder, local 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 (shown below), 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 14 January 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.
A week later Detective Superintendent Nick May, head of the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, appeared on BBC TV's Crimewatch programme to make an appeal in the murder inquiry. Between January and April the detectives worked with the Crimewatch team to produce a reconstruction of what happened. It was aired in April and as well as the reconstruction, featured interviews with Valerie’s family with a fresh appeal for information, and an appeal from us, Sussex Police.
In the months that followed, officers in Bosham held street briefings with residents to talk about what had happened, reassure them about the investigation which was continuing and ask for any information they may have had. Detailed forensic work of the scene was carried out for months and more than 9,500 people were interviewed by officers and 600 statements have been taken as part of the investigation.
As part of the anniversary activity, a year on from her murder, posters were distributed across the area making a fresh appeal for information.
In November of 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 males 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 appealing for all men aged over 17 who live or work in Bosham to volunteer their DNA and provide a thumbprint.
For more information about the DNA screening process watch the video below.
To date 2,737 DNA samples have been from men in Bosham or those associated to the enquiry in some other way.
The family of Valerie have always supported the police efforts to find her killer. Just four days after her brutal murder her son Tim Wood and her daughter Jemima Harrison appeared at a press conference and made an appeal for information to help find the person responsible for their mum’s death.
They spoke about their mum as “much loved” and “sorely missed by the whole family”.
They said they had been lucky to spend time with mum over Christmas and Valerie had a lovely family time, especially with her two grandchildren.
A year later, on the first anniversary of the murder, Tim, Jemima and Valerie's sister's partner Nigel Acres, appeared before local and national media again at another press conference to make a fresh appeal. They said they could not find closure until the culprit was caught.
Tim talked about the horrible year they had endured since their mum was murdered and made a heartfelt plea to anyone with information to come forward. He expressed the family's need to find some closure in finding Valerie’s murderer.
Jemima described her mum as “lovely and gentle” and she was unable to think of anyone who would want to hurt her.
All of Valerie’s family have continued to work with the detectives and have supported them in their efforts to trace the person responsible.
Hear more from Valerie’s family below.
The senior investigating officer
Detectives are continuing to investigate the death of Valerie and her murder remains a priority for the major crime team.
Senior investigating officer Detective Superintendent Jason Taylor said: "Since this tragic murder of Valerie in December 2013, we have been working hard to trace the person responsible.
“The DNA screening process was something, as a force, we have never done before and we have seen thousands of men be tested and the partial DNA sample was a significant breakthrough in the case.
“We will do everything reasonably possible to find Valerie's killer and get justice for her and her family. We are determined to get justice for her family and this case will remain open until we do so."
"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 get in touch."
Can you help us?
We are appealing for any witnesses who have not yet been spoken to and may have been in the area of Smugglers Lane or Hoe Lane between 6pm on 29 December and 10am on 30 December 2013.
• Do you know anyone else who was or could have been there?
• Do you know of anyone who was acting suspiciously around that time or has since mentioned something that has made you suspicious or concerned that they could be involved in this offence? This may be in either a personal or professional capacity.
If you contact police you may be eligible for a £10,000 reward being offered by Surrey and Sussex Police Major Crime Team for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the offender. We need your help to catch Valerie’s killer. Please act now.
If you have information regarding the murder of Valerie Graves or any information which you think will help officers then you can contact us in a number of ways.
• Online quoting reference Op Ensign.
• Telephone: 01273 475432 or 101 and ask for Sussex Police
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously. You will not have to give any personal details and you will not have to speak to police or go to court.
Disclaimer: The material has been released with the support of Valerie Graves family.