A woman murdered while house-sitting for wealthy friends at their waterfront home in an idyllic Sussex village may have been the victim of bungled burglary, police said on Tuesday night.
The dead woman was named by detectives as Valerie Graves, 55, who was found by a relative at 9.50am on Monday with a serious head injury at the seaside home in Bosham – a village that had been used as a location for the television detective series Midsomer Murders.
The owners were abroad on holiday over Christmas and Ms Graves, a divorcee with two grown-up children, was looking after the house near Chichester with three members of her family. She lived in nearby Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex, and was a friend of the homeowners.
Officers were conducting house-to-house inquiries in the village of 4,000 people to try to discover if anyone was hanging around the area before she was killed.
Houses in the area are often used as second homes with many of them empty over the Christmas period. A forensics van was parked outside the house.
Officers were searching drains and small streams in the area but a murder weapon has not yet been found.
Ms Graves has not been formally identified and a post mortem is due to take place on Wednesday. Police declined to say where she was in the house, or whether there were any signs of a break-in.
The owners of the house, Malcolm Chamberlain and his wife Caroline, were on holiday and have been contacted.
Mr Chamberlain, 66, who is listed on his LinkedIn site as a chairman, director, entrepreneur and investor, was a co-founder of an upmarket chain of health centres in 2003. Neighbours said they had twin daughters.
A neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: “They (the owners) have people staying in the house while they are away for the holidays.
Police were also searching a home in Bracklesham Bay. They were also investigating if there had been previous threats against the dead woman or the Chamberlain family, said a spokeswoman.