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Breakthrough as police search for Valerie's killer

Valerie Graves, who was found dead at Bosham in Sussex Credit: Sussex Police

Detectives investigating the murder of Valerie Graves in Bosham believe they have made a breakthrough in the case.

Forensic scientists have obtained a limited DNA profile for the suspect, which means detectives can start requesting voluntary DNA samples to eliminate males from the investigation who live and work in the Bosham area, either permanently or as migrant workers. Officers will also be speaking to visitors in the area to eliminate them from the investigation.

Detective Superintendent Nick May, of the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team said: "This is a significant breakthrough for the investigation. Although this profile is not suitable for a search on the National DNA Database it does indicate the suspect is male. Anyone who provides us with a DNA sample could now be eliminated from the investigation.

"The profiling will involve taking a swab from the mouth and fingerprints from each individual. We are stressing that if anyone has any concerns or suspect they may know something, they can talk to our officers or Crimestoppers anonymously. We can rule out people whose names are suggested as being responsible for the murder by comparing their DNA with the sample.

"It is important for the public to understand that we will only use the samples obtained to check against this particular crime and their DNA profile will not appear on any database. Legal safeguards are in place to ensure we do not use them for any other purpose.

"Without the public's assistance this process would take many months to achieve."

Valerie was found dead with serious head and facial injuries at a house in Smugglers Lane, Bosham, on Monday December 30, 2013. The 55-year-old had been staying at the property while the owners were away over the Christmas period.

A significant investigation into the murder is continuing 10 months after Valerie was found dead in her bedroom in the house.

Chief Inspector Justin Burtenshaw, district policing commander for Chichester, said: "I want to reassure the community that this is part of the ongoing investigation as well as being an opportunity to actively help the enquiry team.

"Anyone who has any concerns can speak to our neighbourhood policing officers in the area."

A reward of up to £20,000 is now being offered jointly by Sussex Police and Crimestoppers for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Valerie's killer.

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Tree growers in bid for festive Downing Street glory

Christmas tree growers from across the ITV Meridian region are bidding for the chance to present the tree which will take pride of place at the official residence of the Prime Minister.

The winning tree in 2012 Credit: Press Association

Over 100 growers will take part in a national competition organised by the British Christmas Tree Growers' Association in Oxfordshire today.

The event will see the hopeful contenders - who span in age from 18 to 80 - coming together to showcase their trees to expert growers, and be judged by fellow members.

Each farmer, who will have spent around 10 years nurturing the tree to full 'competition' height, is able to enter categories including Best Nordman, Best Other Fir, Best Pine, Best Norway Spruce, Best Other Spruce, Best Container Grown, and Best Festive Wreath.

Finalists can submit only one tree into each category, and trees entered must be commercially cultivated and be 1.8 metres high from base to tip. Each will be judged for foliage, colour, shape and marketability.

Following the verdict from the prestigious competition day, the winning grower will supply Downing Street's 20 ft Christmas tree, while the winner of the wreath category will create a wreath to hang at the front door of Number 10.

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