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Neighbours shocked by murder of Borders designer

A MOTHER-OF-TWO found murdered at a house in south England was an artist and textile designer who had settled near Jedburgh, in the Borders, it has emerged.

DEATH SCENE: Valerie Graves was found with fatal head injuries in this house in Smuggler's Lane, Bosham. She was house-sitting for wealthy friends. Picture: Chris Ison/PA
DEATH SCENE: Valerie Graves was found with fatal head injuries in this house in Smuggler's Lane, Bosham. She was house-sitting for wealthy friends. Picture: Chris Ison/PA

Valerie Graves, 55, suffered fatal head injuries on Monday at a £1.6million seaside home in Bosham, West Sussex, where she was house-sitting for wealthy friends.

Sussex Police have questioned three family members who were staying with Ms Graves in the home when she died, but it is understood her two grown-up children were not among them.

Ms Graves, who previously worked as a Constructed Textiles Technician at London Metro­politan University, came to Scotland in 2003 and graduated with a BA Hons in Textile Design at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, in 2007.

She then set up her own craft studio and gallery called Fin Taw at the Harestanes Countryside Visitor Centre, near Jedburgh, where she specialised as a fibre artist making toy hares.

She also ran a business called Maukin the House of Hares, and ran workshops helping other budding artists learn the craft.

In 2010 she received an award from the Creative Arts Business Network in Scotland and was a member of the Society Of Designer Craftsmen, The Inter­national Feltmakers Association, The Surface Design Association and the Girl Geek Scotland Workshops.

According to neighbours, she left the area several months ago to move to the south coast to look after her frail 87-year-old mother, Eileen.

Neighbours at her empty terraced farm cottage near the Borders hamlet of Maxton spoke of their shock at her death.

One, who did not want to be named, said: "I had never heard anything about this and it is very upsetting.

"Val left several months ago to look after her mother. All her family live down south and she has not been here for months."

Sussex Police are continuing to appeal for witnesses to come forward after launching a murder inquiry.

Detective Superintendent Nick May said: "This is a significant event for the area and traumatic for Valerie's family, who are being supported by specially trained officers.

"We are keeping an open mind as to the motive, but we are appealing for witnesses who may have seen anyone acting suspiciously or anything unusual in the area from late afternoon on Sunday to around 10am on Monday.

"We are looking at different lines of inquiry as we are still in the early stages of the invest­igation. We are carrying out house-to-house inquiries, forensic searches and speaking to people who knew the victim."

Chief Inspector Tanya Jones, District Commander for Chichester, said the murder was a "rare incident" in what was usually a quiet and safe area.

One neighbour at the property in Sussex said: "They (the owners]) have people staying in the house while they are away for the holidays, it could be friends, it could be family.

"It is not rented out, people come because it is a nice place to visit. I am just very sad for our neighbours and for everybody.

"You can't imagine coming back from holiday to this, it must be just horrendous."

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