PCSO Julia James subjected to brutal attack while walking her dog, jury told

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A police community support officer was ambushed while out walking her dog and subjected to “a brutal and fatal attack”, a court has heard.

Julia James, 53, was found dead after she had gone out with her Jack Russell dog, Toby, near Ackholt Wood, close to her home in Snowdown, Kent, on April 27 last year.

A jury at Canterbury Crown Court was told on Monday that Callum Wheeler, 22, from Aylesham in Kent, accepts that he killed her but denies murder.

The prosecution allege that Mrs James was killed with a metal railway jack which, they say, was later found in the defendant’s bedroom.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC told jurors: “The evidence suggests that her attacker was waiting in the woods for someone to attack, and then ambushed her.

“Julia tried to escape her attacker but she was subjected to a brutal and fatal attack.

“She suffered catastrophic injuries and died where she fell.”

Ms Morgan said it is the prosecution’s case “that there is a large body of evidence from a variety of sources that demonstrate that the attacker was this defendant, Callum Wheeler”.

She told the court: “Although he denied responsibility for the killing for some time, he does now accept that he was the person that killed Julia James; however, he does not accept that he is guilty of the offence of murder.”

Callum Wheeler sketch
Court artist sketch of Callum Wheeler appearing at Canterbury Crown Court (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Several members of Mrs James’s family attended court to hear the prosecution open the case.

The court also heard that, in the months prior to her death, she had seen a “strange” male, alleged to have been Wheeler, on a number of occasions.

Ms Morgan QC told the jury that Mrs James had described the man as a “really weird dude”.

Jurors were played footage from police body-worn video of an encounter between officers and Wheeler when he dialled 999 on April 17, 10 days before Mrs James died.

The footage showed Wheeler telling the officers “Get lost mate” and “I’m not talking to you”, before his father reassured them that he was OK.

Ms Morgan said: “You may think that the footage of this visit shows the defendant to be behaving oddly” and told the court that he had been reluctant to have “any meaningful conversation with the police”.

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