Julia James murder trial: Jury retraces final steps of PCSO killed on dog walk

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Julia James (Kent Police/PA) (PA Media)
Julia James (Kent Police/PA) (PA Media)

A jury has retraced the final steps of a police community support officer who was beaten to death while walking her dog.

Julia James, 53, died from head injuries near Ackholt Wood, close to her home in Snowdown in Kent, on April 27 last year.

On Tuesday jurors in the trial of Callum Wheeler, who is accused of her murder, were taken to Mrs James’s former home and along the footpath where she walked that day with her Jack Russell dog Toby.

The path led from a gate at the end of her garden, through a wooded area and along the edge of a farmer’s field.

Mrs James’s exact final movements were recorded by her smart watch.

She walked along an uneven path at the edge of the field and on to a bridle path at the edge of Ackholt Wood to a place known for an abundance of butterflies, that she and her husband Paul called the Butterfly Point.

A court sketch of Callum Wheeler, who accepts he killed Mrs James but denies murder (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Wire)
A court sketch of Callum Wheeler, who accepts he killed Mrs James but denies murder (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Wire)

Accompanied by prosecutor Alison Morgan QC, defence barrister Oliver Blunt QC, judge Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb, members of court staff and police officers, the jury walked along the edge of a field full of crops to that point, where Mrs James turned round and began to walk home.

They were shown the point where she then made a detour away from a wooded area, the prosecution claim because she had seen Wheeler in the woods and wanted to get away.

A yellow marker showed the point a short distance away along a path next to a wheat field where her body was found.

Jurors have already been told that Mrs James had seen Wheeler in the same spot before, and described him to Mr James as “a really weird dude”.

Wheeler accepts that he killed her but denies murder, and is on trial at Canterbury Crown Court.

Jurors were also shown Wheeler’s home address in Sunshine Corner Avenue, as well as a nearby gap in the hedge that leads to Adisham Road, that it is said Wheeler walked through both on April 22 and the day of Ms James’s death.

The group then moved on to Aylesham and District Social Club in Ratling, where the jury was shown a camera on the front of the building that recorded Wheeler walking past at 1.08pm on April 27.

Ms Morgan told them: “It shows the defendant carrying a bag containing a metal railway jack.”

They then moved on to a building belonging to a local coach company, with a CCTV camera that captured an image of Julia from a distance while on her walk along the bridle path.

Jurors were also shown locations near the end of Spinney Lane where Wheeler was captured on a bus dashcam on April 27, and by a gamekeeper called Gavin Tucker who took a video clip and still photo of him the day after Mrs James’ death.

The trial was adjourned until Wednesday.

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