Mass DNA screening to begin in UK

by jeeg 17. February 2015 19:31


Detectives in the UK are expecting thousands of men to take part in mass DNA screening in the hope of solving the murder of grandmother Valerie Graves.

Men aged 17 and over began attending the voluntary sessions at the Millstream hotel in Bosham, West Sussex, at 9am on Wednesday, more than a year after the artist was bludgeoned to death as she house-sat for friends in the village.

Police have launched a manhunt for the 55-year-old’s killer, who remains at large despite a £20,000 reward being offered and a Crimewatch appeal being made.

Officers have also interviewed 9,500 people in relation to the investigation and posters have been placed around the village asking volunteers to come forward and be tested.

Det Supt Nick May, from Sussex police, said over the next three weeks, men were being invited to the hotel to give a voluntary sample which would be matched to the limited DNA profile they have of Graves’ killer, in order for them to eliminate a large group of people from the investigation.

Participants will be shown a video about the process before they provide a thumbprint and a swab is taken from the inside of their cheek in a process which lasts up to 20 minutes, May said.

“It’s then packaged up and couriered to our forensic provider where the samples taken here are compared against the profile of the person that we believe murdered Valerie. If that’s a negative then the samples taken here are destroyed.

“There are really strict, legal safeguards in place to ensure that we treat those items with respect and that we do not use them for any other investigation.”

May said he believed there were about 5,000 men living or working in the area who could provide a sample and insisted detectives were not “clutching at straws” by carrying out the mass sampling.

“This is part of a thorough investigation. What we are looking to do here is to eliminate the people who live in and around Bosham so that we can actually make the pot of people we have been looking at smaller,” he said.

“We in Sussex have not done a mass screening like this for some considerable time. However, there are examples elsewhere in the country where it has been successful. We are very confident that we will find the murderer of Valerie Graves.

“Whether it comes precisely from this line of inquiry or from others we will see, but this is what we are concentrating on at the moment and is the best chance we have to eliminate people who live in and around Bosham to help us find the murderer.”

Graves, a mother of two, is believed to have been killed with a claw hammer in a ground floor bedroom in Smugglers Lane, Bosham, on 30 December 2013. She was attacked as she house-sat with her sister Jan, mother Eileen and her sister’s partner, Nigel Acres, while the property’s owners holidayed abroad over Christmas.

The death of Graves shocked the small community of Bosham, which featured in an episode of the ITV crime drama Midsomer Murders.

Last month, Graves’s children, Tim Wood, 32, and Jemima Harrison, 35, spoke publicly about her death – along with Acres – in the runup to the first anniversary of her murder. The family said Christmas had been put “on hold” as they faced their first festive season without her.

Press Association


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