THE whiff of suspicion hung in the air for years as Sussex Police embarked on one of the county’s biggest ever murder hunts.
Men, in particular, felt as if they were in the frame for a murder they did not commit as police swooped on the idyllic leafy village of Bosham where 55-year-old Valerie Graves was ruthlessly bludgeoned to death by Romanian burglar Cristian Sabou just after Christmas 2013.
Desperate to find the killer of the botched burglary, police resorted to desperate measures by DNA testing every man in the affluent West Sussex village that is home to multi-millionaires and has properties owned by the likes of the Guinness family.
The normally quaint fishing retreat was transformed into an avalanche of detectives and police helicopters for weeks after the murder. With the case still not cracked two years on, police were so keen to put people’s minds at ease they descended on the village for Christmas for the following two years to show a visible presence.
The village, lauded by those who live there as ‘one of the friendliest places you could wish to visit’, suddenly was riddled with nervous glances and gripping underlying fear as the attacker remained at large – with locals frightened the perpetrator lived among them.
Workers in Bosham Walk Arts and Craft Centre revealed the village was turned upside down by the murder. ‘My sons were DNA tested by police. They were rather affronted by it,’ one woman said.
‘Police were asking questions about where they had been over Christmas but as they couldn’t remember the precise details they felt like they were under suspicion. A lot of people felt like that.
‘The killer used a red hammer and so police began a search of workshops and residences looking for such a tool.
‘My mum got burgled not so long after the murder and police found a red hammer there and took it with them and never gave it back. It created a lot of anxiety in the village.’
Another woman whose husband was DNA tested admitted her partner was surprised by the move but added: ‘In the end we were happy to see police getting on and doing something.’
The atmosphere in the village changed overnight upon hearing the news that Sabou had been extradited to the UK. ‘Some people were living in fear,’ one man said. ‘There was a sense of relief when police found him.’
Now the village finally has closure after Sabou was jailed for life yesterday.