A man has been arrested in Romania over the 2013 murder of Valerie Graves, who was found bludgeoned to death in bed, police have said.
Cristian Sabou, a Romanian national, was held on a European Arrest Warrant on Wednesday morning at his address in the northwestern town of Dej by Romanian police.
The grandmother, 55, was house-sitting for friends in a £1.6m house by the sea in Bosham, West Sussex, over Christmas 2013.
She was found bludgeoned to death in bed on the ground floor of the property on Smugglers Lane at around 10am on 30 December.
She was last seen alive at around 10pm the night before.
There were no signs of a struggle but a post-mortem found she had severe head injuries after being hit with a claw hammer, probably at around midnight.
At the time, detectives were baffled by the killing and, after 9,000 interviews, began a mass DNA voluntary screening programme which saw almost 3,000 men tested.
A 22-year-old man was arrested, but later released with no further action.
Detective Chief Inspector Jon Fanner called Wednesday’s arrest “a major development” in the case.
He praised the efforts Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, along with Romanian police and the local prosecutor.
“We have worked closely with the Crown Prosecution Service throughout and they have authorised the prosecution. We have also had valuable support from the National Crime Agency’s overseas network.
“Valerie’s family have been kept informed of developments but they are not making any public statement at this time.
“This is a major development in our task of achieving justice for Valerie and her family, but now the case is before the courts, proceedings are active, and we are not in a position to disclose any further information at this time,” he said.
Sussex Police said extradition proceedings for Sabou to return to the UK will begin in a court in the city of Cluj-Napoca at a later date and, if successful, he will be tried in Sussex.
On the fifth anniversary of Ms Graves’s death last December, relatives said they had not given up hope but felt detectives had exhausted all lines of inquiry.
Ms Graves, an artist, died just days after her birthday while house-sitting – 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.
The investigation that followed was one of the biggest in Sussex Police’s history.