Kent Police are “in deep shock” following the death of PCSO Julia James as the murder probe enters its second week, the force’s top officer has said.
Chief Constable Alan Pughsley said the force would do “all we can” to bring her killer to justice, but warned the community to be “very safe and very careful”.
No arrests have been made in connection with the killing as police consider “all possible” motives to the incident which happened near Dover in Kent.
The police chief’s words come as mourners – including Ms James’ daughter Bethan Coles – are expected to leave candles on their doorsteps later on Tuesday.
Speaking to ITV after visiting flowers left in her memory, the chief constable vowed to find Ms James’ killer.
He said: “You can imagine that the force are in deep shock with regard to what’s happened to Julia.
“We will do all we can to find out whoever did this to bring them to justice.”
Tuesday marks a week since the 53-year-old’s body was found in Akholt Wood, close to her home in the village of Snowdown.
The popular PCSO – described as “fiercely loyal” by her devastated family – died from serious head injuries while out walking her dog.
In a Facebook post, her daughter Ms Coles said: “A number of people have asked about holding a vigil for Mum, and whilst I am so grateful for people wanting to remember her, I am very conscious that any gathering would need to be policed (if it was even allowed).
“I’ve discussed this with my family and we are in agreement that we would prefer all police resources to be concentrating on the investigation as there is so much work to be done.”
Instead she suggested people wishing to remember her mother should light a candle for her and leave it on their doorstep.
She added: “This would be a beautiful nod to Mum in a way that doesn’t intrude on the police investigation.”
Police in Dover have urged members of the public to be “cautious, vigilant and aware of your surroundings” while out and about.
At a press conference on Friday, Kent Police Assistant Chief Constable Tom Richards declined to rule out that Ms James was killed by a stranger, someone she came across during her work, someone trying to steal her dog, or as part of a sexual assault.
Mr Richards would not comment on any potential murder weapon and also declined to say whether detectives had found signs of a struggle.