A Romanian man accused of bludgeoning a grandmother to death with a hammer as she house-sat for friends is to stand trial for murder in January.
Artist Valerie Graves, 55, was found dead in bed on the ground floor of a £1.6 million house by the sea in Bosham, West Sussex,at around 10am on December 30 2013.
Her family were asleep in the upstairs bedrooms at the time of her death.
Following one of the biggest investigations in Sussex Police’s history, 28-year-old Cristian Sabou was tracked down at his home in Dej in north-west Romania.
A DNA screening programme saw almost 3,000 men tested and, five years after the murder, it seemed as though all lines of inquiry had been exhausted but detectives pledged to continue investigating.
Sabou was held on a European Arrest Warrant and extradited to the UK last Friday, charged with murdering Ms Grave’s between December 29 and 30 2013.
He appeared at Lewes Crown Court on Tuesday morning, dressed in a black T-shirt and dark trousers.
He did not enter a plea and his trial was listed for January 6 next year.
Sabou is due back in court on September 30 for a plea and trial preparation hearing.
Judge Katherine Laing QC told him: “On the next date the court will expect you to be arraigned and you to enter a plea.
“Until then you are remanded in custody.”
Ms Graves had moved from Scotland to Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex, shortly before her death.
She died just days after her birthday while house-sitting at the Smuggler’s Lane mansion – with her mother Eileen, her sister Jan and her sister’s partner Nigel Acres – for family friends the Chamberlains, who were on holiday in Costa Rica for Christmas.
Ms Graves was last seen alive at around 10pm the night before and there were no signs of a struggle.
A post-mortem examination found she had severe head injuries after being hit with a claw hammer, probably at around midnight.