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Sussex antiques dealer ‘violently beaten’
A well-known antiques dealer who was found dead in his home had been violently beaten.
Michael Griffiths, 59, was discovered in his hallway after firefighters were called to a blaze at his Fernhurst house on Thursday morning.
Murder police are now investigating whether the single man may have been targeted because of his lucrative line of work.
Mr Griffiths was well known on the local antiques circuit and worked at the John Nicholson Auction House, near Midhurst.
Shocked friends last night described him as a “lovable eccentric” and “one in a million”.
Carla Walls, from Garden House Antiques, in Petworth, said: “I just can’t believe he has gone. I can’t get my head around it.”
She added he was also a talented jewellery maker and would never be seen out without his cravat.
Firefighters were called to his home in Old Glebe at 8am last Thursday (January 24) following reports of a fire.
On entering the building they found a battered Mr Griffiths sprawled out in the hallway.
Officers are still trying to piece together events but believe the fire was started at the rear of the house.
Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Riley said: “Smoke patterns on a couple of the windows suggest that they were open when the fire broke out.
“There is no doubt that we are dealing with a murder and I would appeal to everyone in Fernhurst’s close-knit community to think about anything suspicious or just out of the ordinary in the days leading up to the fire and especially the time between 6.30am and 8am on Thursday morning, to give us a call.”
A post-mortem carried out on Friday evening revealed “serious injuries to his head and body”.
However the Home Office pathologist said further tests were needed to discover the exact cause of death.
DCI Riley added: “We do know that Michael had a couple of callers at around 8.25pm on Tuesday evening (January 22) who threw snowballs when he answered from an upstairs window.
“This may well have been an innocent prank, but we would also like to hear from them or anyone else who experienced a similar thing.”
Shocked residents and fellow antique enthusiasts were still struggling to come to terms with his death last night.
Ms Walls said: “He was just a lovely friendly, helpful man.
“He lived on his own and would have had a number of expensive personal items in his house. He was a real collector, that’s all I can think of.”
She added he had worked for many years at the John Nicholson Auction House which regularly featured on many of the BBC’s antiques programmes including Bargain Hunt.
Friend Valarie Phillips added: “Being the lovely person he was we became friends and used to enjoy a chat and have a cup of coffee and a slice of cake on his visits.”
Anyone with information should call police on 101 quoting Operation Killick.
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