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Romanian man appears in court charged with the murder of a grandmother Valerie Graves

Jessica Carpani
Valerie Graves 55, was found dead in bed in 2013  - PA

A Romanian man has appeared in court charged with the murder of a grandmother in 2013. 

Artist Valerie Graves, 55, was beaten to death with a claw hammer at a house on Smugglers Lane, Bosham, which she was looking after for friends over the Christmas season.

She was found dead the morning after the attack in a bedroom at the house on December 30, 2013 with severe head wounds. 

On Friday, Romanian national Cristian Sabou, 27, was extradited to the UK and transferred into the custody of Sussex Police. 

He appeared at Brighton Magistrates' Court on Saturday morning charged with Ms Graves's murder between December 29 and 30.

The 27-year-old said he understood the charge and was not asked to enter a plea. Cristian Sabou, 28, was held on a European Arrest Warrant last week in Cluj-Napoca in the north-west of his native Romania.

Officers from the Romanian National Police served him with the EAW which had been authorised by a district judge in the UK.

Detectives from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team were present in Romania to work with the authorities there. Ms Graves had moved from Scotland to Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex, shortly before her death. 

She died just days after her birthday while house-sitting at the Smuggler's Lane mansion, with her mother Eileen, her sister Jan and her sister's partner Nigel Acres, for family friends the Chamberlains, who were on holiday in Costa Rica.

A post-mortem examination found Ms Graves had severe head injuries after being hit with a claw hammer.

The case became known as the Midsomer Murder after an episode of the popular ITV drama was filmed in the picturesque coastal village.

Sussex Police then launched one of the biggest investigations in their history conducting more than 9,000 interviews and took 3,000 DNA samples in an attempt to find her killer.

Wearing a white T-shirt with black print and speaking through a Romanian interpreter, Mr Sabou confirmed his name from the dock at Brighton Magistrates Court.

When he was asked to confirm an address in Chichester, Mr Sabou said: “It’s a long time since I lived there, 2014.”

The presiding justice, Barney Miller, remanded Sabou in custody ahead of a hearing at Lewes Crown Court on July 23.

On the fifth anniversary of Ms Graves's death last December, relatives told how no-one had given up hope on the investigation although there was a sense police had exhausted all lines of inquiry.