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13 March 2015, 07:21
Detectives say more than 2,000 men have now volunteered their DNA in the investigation into the murder of grandmother Valerie Graves in Bosham near Chichester.
Sussex Police launched its biggest voluntary mass DNA screening in its history in January and February asking all men aged over 17 who live, work or visit Bosham to provide a DNA sample and a thumbprint to eliminate them from the inquiry.
On 30 December 2013 55-year-old mother and grandmother Valerie Graves was found brutally murdered in her bedroom in Smugglers Lane, Bosham. She had been staying at the property while the owners were away over the Christmas period.
Detective Superintendent Nick May of Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team said:
"We want to thank all those men, 2,042 in total, who attended the voluntary sessions in Bosham, Fishbourne and Chichester over the three-week session to give their DNA. The response has been positive."
So far 1,642 samples have been processed and around 1,235 men have received an email thanking them for volunteering their DNA and eliminating them from the inquiry. Around 237 men will be written to in the next week as they don't have email addresses.
Det Supt May said:
"The process of elimination due to the volume of samples, can take up to two months, although this can sometimes be quicker and we have already given results to more than 1,200 men. We expect to give more results over the coming weeks.
"We still need those men who have not come forward to do so. We will be doing house-to-house enquiries and knocking on doors during a week of action from 6 to 12 April asking those who have not given their DNA to consider doing so.
"If we don't get a reply we will also be sending out further letters asking them to attend Chichester police station to give their DNA.
"We have to be tenacious in our efforts to catch the killer. But we do understand that this is an entirely voluntary process and there is no compulsion for anyone to co-operate with us. We simply want to do the best we can for Valerie's family and for the community in bringing the killer to justice."
Men who still need to give their DNA can go to Chichester Police Station front office, Kingsham Road, which is open from 9am to 8pm Monday to Saturday or the mobile incident unit will be at Tesco Extra in Fishbourne on Friday 10 April and Saturday 11 April from 10am to 8pm and Sunday 12 April 10am to 4pm.
Forensic scientists have obtained a limited DNA profile for the murder suspect, which although not suitable for a search on the National DNA Database, indicates the suspect is male.
Detective Constable Steve Taylor from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team explained the procedure of the DNA screening:
"Those who attend are asked to bring along photo identification, a passport or the photo driving licence. An officer will fill out some details, check their identification and take a photo of them.
"Their thumbprint will be taken and a swab will be taken from inside their mouth. The process is painless and should take no longer than 10 minutes.
"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."
Anyone with information about the murder of Valerie Graves is asked to call 101 and quote Operation Ensign or to call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.