Murder inquest in Chichester rules Valerie Graves was ‘unlawfully killed’

Valerie Graves was murdered in Bosham in December 2013. PPP-150121-114618001
Valerie Graves was murdered in Bosham in December 2013. PPP-150121-114618001

An inquest into the brutal murder of a grandmother in Bosham recorded a verdict of unlawful killing today.

Valerie Graves’ body was discovered with severe head injuries in a bedroom at a coastal mansion, on December 30 2013, the Chichester inquest heard.

Police identified the murder weapon as a claw hammer, but an investigation to find her killer is still ongoing.

Senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Jason Taylor said a post-mortem report found the fatal injuries were ‘not dissimilar’ to the level sustained in a road traffic collision.

Injuries to Valerie’s hand were taken as evidence of a short struggle.

Valerie, 55, of Shalbourne Crescent, Bracklesham Bay, had been house-sitting for family friends at the property in Smugglers Lane over the festive season when the attack occurred, the inquest heard.

DCI Taylor said Valerie’s body was discovered in the morning by her sister Janet Graves, who initally believed the death to be suicide, but paramedics called to the house quickly identified the area as a crime scene.

He added that Valerie’s bedroom was on the ground floor and that the bedroom door was found open.

The room had one external door leading onto a patio at the back of the house.

A Screwfix hammer was later found covered in blood and hair matching Valerie’s DNA around 600 metres from the scene.

DCI Taylor added that Valerie had spent an enjoyable Christmas with her family that year and there is no known motive for her killing.

She was described as someone who was ‘unlikely to offend’ and had recently moved from Scotland to Bracklesham Bay to care for her elderly mother.

A police investigation under the name Operation Ensign is still active.

A large scale voluntary DNA screening programme to help eliminate men in the area collected data from 2,500 people after forensics indicated the suspect was likely to be male.

Coroner Penelope Schofield concluded the inquest with condolences to the family and an appeal for anyone with information to come forward.

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