Killer of PCSO Julia James jailed for life over ‘brutal and vicious’ attack

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The man who murdered PCSO Julia James in a “brutal and vicious” sex attack as she walked her dog has been handed a life sentence with a minimum term of 37 years.

Callum Wheeler, 22, waited for the mother-of-two, 53, in Ackholt Wood armed with a large metal bar before ambushing her near her home in Snowdown, Kent, on the afternoon of April 27 last year.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said Mrs James was subjected to a “brutal and fatal attack” as she fell to the ground while fleeing her attacker, adding: “This was a murder involving sexual conduct.”

He was seen roaming around the countryside with the weapon the day before he killed Mrs James, who was off duty, walking her dog, a Jack Russell called Toby.

Wheeler, who was carried into the Canterbury Crown Court dock on Friday, wearing handcuffs, by staff from Broadmoor high security psychiatric hospital, in Berkshire, where he has been held, was found guilty of murder in May.

Callum Wheeler
Callum Wheeler was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court (Kent Police/PA)

He was jailed for life with a minimum term of 37 years on Friday by Mr Justice Wall, who told him: “The attack you launched on her was brutal and vicious.”

“Your actions have not just served to end the one life prematurely but have also destroyed the lives of the whole of her family,” said the judge.

“I am drawn on the evidence to the obvious conclusion that this was a not a spur of the moment aberration by you.

“Rather it was an attack which was planned and thought through in advance.”

He added: “You were there looking for a lone female victim and you were sexually motivated to do so.”

Wheeler showed no emotion as he was escorted down to the cells in front of his victim’s family, including her husband Paul James, daughter Bethan Coles and son Patrick Davis.

Julia James’ son Patrick Davies and daughter Bethan Coles
Julia James’ son Patrick Davies and daughter Bethan Coles (Gareth Fuller/PA)

He earlier sat with his head bowed as they read their emotional victim impact statements.

Mr Davis said his mother’s life had been taken because of a “twisted individual’s strange desires”.

He said: “He should never see the light of day again. Why should he?

“My mum only wanted to walk her dog but had her life ended by that disgusting creature.”

He and Mrs James’ daughter told how their mother’s murder has given them a “life sentence”.

“To lose my own parent, the woman I loved the most in the world is truly awful,” she said. “To know how she was brutally attacked in broad daylight having run for her life is horrific.

“It haunts me every day of my life.”

Mrs James’ husband repeatedly broke down in tears as he told how “my life was finally complete when I married my soulmate.”

Callum Wheeler court case
Paul James speaks outside Canterbury Crown Court in Kent after the verdict in May (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“My hopes and dreams were taken,” he said when his wife was murdered. “I actually felt I died too.”

Wheeler was described by the prosecutor as a “highly sexualised” prolific user of internet pornography, who had searched for words including “raped” just two days before the attack.

She said Wheeler planned to target a lone woman and was “lying in wait in bushes” for “highly respected PCSO” Mrs James, who made a “desperate attempt to run away”.

Data from her Apple watch showed that her heart rate and walking pace spiked at the point it is believed she spotted Wheeler in the woodland, and changed her route home in a bid to escape.

She suffered “catastrophic injuries”, described by a pathologist as the worst he had ever seen, when Wheeler inflicted “multiple blows to her head” with a railway jack – a tool used to lift train tracks, Ms Morgan said.

She said DNA found on the breast area of Mrs James’ white top indicated touching that “must have been sexual in nature”.

Callum Wheeler court case
Paul James, husband of PCSO Julia James (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Wheeler had no connection to his victim but prosecutors said he targeted her when she became vulnerable because she was not close to any other dog walkers.

When arrested, he told police “sometimes I do things that I cannot control” and while in custody said “you can’t go into the woods and expect to be safe”.

He also said that if he was released he would return to the woodland to rape and kill women, and that Mrs James had deserved to die.

The judge said: “It was an attack which in combination with other similar offences reported in the Press in the recent past has caused understandable fear and concern among members of the public who may find themselves in a similar vulnerable position to that which Mrs James found herself that day.”

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