Police name seaside village victim

Banbury Cake: A murder probe has been launched after the discovery of a 55-year-old woman's body A murder probe has been launched after the discovery of a 55-year-old woman's body

A woman murdered while house-sitting a property in a seaside village has been named by police as Valerie Graves.

The 55-year-old woman was found dead yesterday morning having suffered a head injury at the detached house in Smuggler's Lane, Bosham, West Sussex.

Detective Superintendant Nick May, of Sussex police, said the identity of the victim had not been confirmed but it is believed to be the mother of two grown-up children from Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex.

Mr May said that a cause of death had not been established and a post-mortem examination was to be carried out tomorrow.

He said that Ms Graves had been housesitting with three of her relatives at the address in Bosham, which belonged to friends, when she was found dead.

Mr May added that Ms Graves had two grown-up children who lived elsewhere in the country and they had been informed of her death.

He said that the investigation was following a number of lines of inquiry including that she had been killed by a stranger.

But he would not confirm whether there were any signs of a break-in or burglary.

He said: "We are treating it as murder, there are a number of lines of inquiry which we are now pursuing."

He continued: "Valerie and some members of her family were housesitting at the address.

"They had arrived shortly before Christmas.

"The people who own the house are abroad on holiday. They are aware of what is going on.

"There were four people in the house including Valerie, all family members. We have no-one in custody."

When asked about the possibility of an attack by a stranger, he said: "There are a number of lines of inquiry and that is one of the lines of inquiry."

Mr May said that an ambulance was called to the property at 9.50am yesterday and Ms Graves was found dead inside. Police were then alerted by the ambulance crew.

A police van and a forensic support van were parked outside the detached property this morning while police officers carried out searches in nearby gardens.

Police were also carrying out a search of a house in Shalbourne Crescent in Bracklesham Bay.

The house is registered to an Eileen Graves, 87, and neighbours said an elderly brother and sister lived at the address.

The neighbour said: "They are just normal people, just keep themselves to themselves."

A neighbour of the Smuggler's Lane house, who did not wish to be named, said: "They (the owners) have people staying in the house while they are away for the holidays, it could be friends, it could be family.

"It is not rented out, people come because it is a nice place to visit.

"We do not know who they were, they have been there since Christmas.

"There were cars parked in the drive, they were entirely well-behaved, they came gently and went gently, we heard absolutely nothing."

She added that they first realised that something had happened when they saw an ambulance and police cars parked outside the detached property - which has a children's playground and football posts in the garden.

She said: "We looked across and saw the ambulance and three police cars, believed something was amiss and we worked out what had happened but we know no more.

"I am just very sad for our neighbours and for everybody.

"You can't imagine coming back from holiday to this, it must be just horrendous."

Speaking of the owners, she added: "They are just a very nice family, very nice neighbours, it's just very sad for the family."

A man who lives nearby said: "It's shocking to happen here or anywhere."

The house, called Hove To, is in Smuggler's Lane which is in the rural outskirts of the small seaside village of Bosham.

The property was last sold in June 2000 for £745,000 according to property websites.

The house is listed on the electoral register as being occupied by a Malcolm, 66, and Caroline Chamberlain, 63, and a neighbour said they had twin girls.

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