Champion dog breeder, 68, with ‘infectious smile’ found ‘murdered’ in car as cops investigate link to two other burglaries
A CHAMPION dog breeder with an “infectious smile” was found “murdered” in a driveway just hours after two more break-ins.
Valerie Freer, 68, was found dead in her bungalow in Whittington, Staffordshire on Thursday – and now cops are investigating potential links to the other burglaries.
Her family paid tribute to the woman, who had an “illuminating smile and an infectious laugh” and was “endlessly loved by her family and friends”.
They added: “Words can’t even begin to describe how truly devastated we are to have lost our wonderful Val.
“An incredibly beautiful woman inside and out, she was always so loving and caring to everyone around her.
“Val is infinitely loved by her family and friends around the world. She will be sorely missed and forever in our hearts.”
Ms Freer, who lived in the Lichfield Road bungalow with her husband, was a renowned breeder of Samoyed dogs.
One of his dogs, Champion Nikara Dancer, received the Best in Show award at Crufts in 2014.
Susan Smith, who was Valerie’s friend for 40 years and also co-owner of the champion dog, said: “Val would certainly have fought tooth and nail for her dogs.
“But we haven’t heard from that line of inquiry again, so I think it may just be a simple burglary.
“Val was a beloved and respected breeder. She was president of the British Samoyed Club and I am president.
“What happened is a terrible shock. I just want to be remembered as a kind-hearted woman who loved her dogs.”
A resident said in tribute: “This is all very sad. The wife, Valerie, kept four small dogs and came to the pub from time to time. She is very popular in the village.
A 26-year-old man remains in custody after being arrested in Slough, Berkshire, for the alleged murder.
A woman said she was told there had been two break-ins in the past week on a nearby mile-long country road – near where the woman’s body was found.
She added: “They were both on Wednesday, the day before the murder.
“Apparently one housewife had to physically close her door to an intruder and another housewife also said she saw someone trying to break in.
“I am told that both of these incidents were reported to the police.”
Officers confirmed they linked the alleged murder to “a number of other suspicious incidents in the area since February 9”.
This includes the two aggravated burglaries in the area.
Detective Superintendent Tom Chisholm, head of Staffordshire Police’s Major Investigations Department, said: ‘We know this incident will have deeply shocked the community and that is why work continues at pace to understand the timeline of events and the circumstances before Ms. Freer’s death.
“We need to understand the movements of the red Peugeot 208 which we believe was in the area between February 9 and February 24.
“Anyone who saw anything unusual in the area, or a vehicle or person(s) they did not recognize in the village between these dates is asked to contact us as soon as possible.”
The force said the vehicle was hired from London on February 9.
And the driver is believed to be white, slim-built, and is said to have thick black hair and a foreign accent.
A Staffordshire Police spokesman said: “Police and the ambulance service were called to an address on Lichfield Road in the village at around 10.42am on Thursday February 24.
“Sadly Valerie Freer, 68, was pronounced dead by paramedics shortly thereafter. Her death is being ruled a murder.”
A 72-year-old man, initially arrested in connection with the death, has since been released without further action.