A man has pleaded guilty to the 2013 murder of grandmother Valerie Graves.

The killing of the 55-year-old artist at Christmas time shocked the small village of Bosham in West Sussex.

She was found bludgeoned to death in the ground-floor bedroom of a luxury £1.6 million property where she was house-sitting.

Ms Graves had just moved down from Maxton, near Melrose to be closer to her family, with whom she spent Christmas before she was found dead on December 30.

Cristian Sabou, previously of Dej, Romania, pleaded guilty to her murder when he appeared at Lewes Crown Court today.

The house in Bosham, West Sussex, where Valerie Graves was found murdered  Credit: PA

"There were extensive injuries to her head. The level of force used was extreme. Not dissimilar from the forces experienced during road traffic collisions."

Prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC

Prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC told the court that Sabou had entered the house as a would-be burglar, expecting it to be empty.

He had worked odd jobs for the homeowners in the previous couple of months. The court heard that he had been informed that a safe in the house contained a large amount of cash and ingots.

When he entered the home he found Ms Graves, and attacked her. Sabou struck her with a hammer, causing 'horrific' injuries to her head as she tried to defend herself.

The killing sparked one of the longest murder hunts in Sussex Police history, but it was not until July 2019 that Sabou was arrested in Romania and charged and extradited to the UK.

Credit: Family photo/PA

"She was a free spirit who enjoyed her life and was a talented artist. She had lived in Scotland for about 10 years, a place she loved and which inspired her passion for art. This has been devastating for the family and has come as a complete shock. Her family described her as "an eternal student who was always hungry for a new challenge."


Judge Christine Laing QC jailed him for life with a minimum term of 23 years and 272 days.

"Rather than simply running away in the hope you could not be identified by a woman waking from sleep you conducted this horrific attack on Ms Graves. It was your dishonesty and greed that took you to the house. It was your cowardice and lack of morality that caused you to kill Valerie Graves."