Date: 30 Dec 2013
Valerie Graves was found dead at a house in Bosham, near Chichester in West Sussex.
She was beaten to death five days after her 55th birthday with a 16 ounce claw hammer and later found on 30 December 2013 in her bed dead by her sister. She had been in bed at the time of the murder, which was thought to have happened around midnight. She was found the following morning at about 9.50am by her sister when she went in to offer her a cup of tea.
She had been beaten over the head with the hammer, but no defensive injuries were found on her body and it was thought that she might have been killed in her sleep. She had been sleeping in a downstairs bedroom at the rear of the house at the time.
The police said that it was a possibility that someone had been watching her as she got ready for bed and had then later gone into her room and beaten her to death with the hammer.
She was last seen alive at about 10pm the night before.
Valerie Graves had been house-sitting for friends at the time since 23 December 2013 with three other family members, her mother, sister, and her sister's partner. The family that owned the house were out of the country in Costa Rica on holiday at the time.
The day before Valerie Graves had watched a film at the house with her mother and sister whilst the sisters partner went out with friend, returning at about 9.20pm. The sister's partner said that he stayed up watching television after the rest of the family went to bed between 10pm and 10.30pm and that when he went to bed he went around the house to make sure that all the doors were locked and all the lights were out.
It was noted that whilst she was being beaten to death with the hammer, no one else in the house had heard anything.
The hammer that she was beaten to death with was later found in Hoe Lane, about 600m from the house, at the entrance to the driveway of Hart’s Farm. The hammer had a black grip on it and a distinctive red stripe that went along the shaft with the words Forged Steel on it.
DNA and a thumbprint were found on the hammer, indicating that the killer was a man, but the police were unable to find a match. They took DNA samples from nearly 3,000 men who lived, worked or visited Bosham but were unable to get a match.
During the police investigation, the police said that they were looking into a connection between the house and a swingers’ website. They said that naked pictures of the male owner of the house had been posted on the site by someone unknown. However, the owner, whose photos had been accompanied by his email address and touted for casual sex or a discreet relationship, said that he had no idea how they had got onto the site. His solicitor said on his behalf that the photos were private photos, very old, and that he didn’t understand how they got online.
The house owner said that the only explanation that he could think of was that someone had been trying to make mischief and the police said that they were working on the theory that some had had a grudge against him that that had drawn them to his house.
The police also said that the possibility of a break-in gone wrong at the house had not been ruled out.
The police said that they had no suspects and appealed for anyone that noticed anyone come home on Sunday night or Monday morning with bloody clothes or a change of clothes.
They also said that they were looking for someone that probably had a history of violence. It was noted one blow would have been enough to kill her but that she had been struck multiple times. They also said, 'We know that a hammer is not usually used by burglars and the murderer would have known the amount of harm they could inflict on someone with the hammer, when they entered the house'.
Her inquest in 2015 ruled her death was an unlawful killing.
Valerie Graves had lived in Bracklesham Bay and had two adult children.
Bosham was known for being the setting for a 1998 episode of the television program, Midsomer Murders called, 'Written in Blood'.
In July 2019 it was reported that a Romanian man was arrested in relation to her murder by Romanian authorities and was awaiting extradition to the UK.