ONE of the biggest manhunts in the history of Sussex Police is underway, as detectives swoop on a village for a mass DNA screening in the hunt for a killer.
Detectives are appealing for 5,000 local men to voluntarily give samples of their DNA as they try and track down the murderer of Valerie Graves.
Sussex Police have set up a base at the Millstream Hotel in Bosham, the village where 55-year-old artist Mrs Graves was bludgeoned to death on December 29, 2013.
All local men aged 17 and over are being asked to voluntarily give samples of their DNA between now and January 29 and again next month.
Mrs Graves was house-sitting for friends in Smugglers Lane, with her family, when she was brutally killed with a hammer.
Sussex Police chief constable Giles York said the tragic murder is one of the most complex investigations the force has ever undertaken.
Police are convinced the murderer has a link to the area, and have interviewed more than 9,500 people and offered a £20,000 reward to catch the killer.
Last year police obtained a partial DNA profile of the suspect, but officers said it is not compatible with the DNA database.
District commander chief inspector Justin Burtenshaw said: ‘This is the biggest DNA screening ever done in Sussex, and possibly in the country.
‘We hope to screen approximately 5,000 males live, work or stayed in Bosham over the last year.
‘Anyone who doesn’t come down – it gives us another focus to go and see them and find out why they don’t want to. This is still the biggest inquiry in Surrey and Sussex.’
Some 65 people went along to the hotel before the screening process had even been set up.
Officers are working from a mobile screening unit where men will be asked to take identification and provide a DNA mouth swab and thumbprint to eliminate them from the inquiry.
The drop-in sessions are February 2 to 7, and February 10 to 15 at the hotel, in Bosham Lane.
Police are reassuring people they will not retain samples for future use.
Anyone with information should call police on 101.