Man arrested in hunt for PCSO Julia James’s killer

Detectives hunting the killer of PCSO Julia James have arrested a man in his 20s, they revealed on Saturday.

The arrest came 11 days after Mrs James, 53, was found bludgeoned to death in woodland near her home in Snowdown, Kent, on April 27, shortly after leaving the house with her Jack Russell dog.   

It emerged on Saturday evening that a woman from Canterbury claimed her daughter recognised the man in the photograph, which had been posted on the force’s Facebook page.

Her comment was spotted by Mrs James’s daughter, Bethan Coles, 31, a police officer, who wrote: “Please go to police if you have any information. We would be so grateful x”. 

The woman, who did not want to be named, later posted to say that she had been contacted by officers.

A Kent Police spokesman said: “Officers investigating the death of Julia James have arrested a man in connection with her murder.

“A man in his 20s from the Canterbury area was arrested at 9.30pm on Friday 7 May 2021, and remains in custody.”

The man held by police is understood to be a British national. A house in the former mining town of Aylesham, close to the scene of the killing, was later seen taped off by police, with forensics officers undertaking a search of the property in Sunshine Corner Avenue.

Officers with clipboards were seen going door to door, speaking to people living in surrounding houses on the new build estate, close to the outskirts of the village.

Kent Police repeated their appeal for any information that might help them in their hunt for Mrs James’ killer, with the force so far unable to establish what the motive for the attack was.

Assistant Chief Constable Tom Richards said: “We continue to urge anyone with information, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, to contact us.

“If you were in the Snowdown area between 1pm and 4.30pm on Tuesday 27 April please contact us. This includes anyone local who may have seen something out of place at the time, or who came across someone who made them feel uneasy – such as feeling compelled to cross the road or change the route they were walking.”

The arrest came after Kent Police said they were no longer seeking information about a man following the release of an image by the force.

Officers had released a photograph on Friday of a man they said could be of “crucial importance” to the investigation.

But later in the day the force said the man had been identified and they were no longer appealing for information about him.

ACC Richards said: “I can confirm we have identified the man in the photo and we no longer need the media to run his image, nor do we need further information about him at this time.

“Despite identifying this individual, we are still keen to hear from those who have information that may help us.”

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Candles lit for murdered PCSO Julia James as Kent Police say they are ‘in deep shock’

The tribute paid by mourners and members of the public across the country came after Kent Police’s top officer said the force was “in deep shock” following her death.

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 of the Kent PCSO, as police consider “all possible” motives to the incident which happened near Dover in Kent.

The police chief’s words came as mourners left candles on their doorsteps at 7pm on Tuesday.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to Ms James as the vigil was held in her memory.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Johnson said: “Tonight we remember PCSO Julia James. My thoughts are with her friends and family.”

Speaking to ITV after visiting flowers left in her memory, Kent’s 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 Bethan 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).

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Son pays tribute to his ‘amazing’ PCSO mum and says her murder ‘doesn’t make sense’

The son of a much-loved PCSO who was found dead on a footpath near a village has paid a poignant tribute to his ‘amazing, caring’ mum.

The body of Julia James, 53, was found on a small footpath in Snowdown near Aylesham earlier this week.

She is believed to have been walking her dog near her home when the tragedy unfolded and local police have launched a murder probe.

Kent Police have not confirmed how the mum-of-two died and no arrests have yet been made.

Mrs James, who lived in The Crescent, Snowdown, became a PCSO in 2007 and tributes poured in in the wake of her death.

PCSO Julia James, pictured in 2013
PCSO Julia James, pictured in 2013

The Sun reports that Julia’s son Patrick Davis, 23, paid an emotional tribute and a final goodbye to his beloved mum.

He said on Facebook : “Mum, I cannot believe I’m even writing this. I love you to the moon and back.

“I’m in complete shock and I still don’t even think this is real, but I just hope wherever you may be that you’re happy and comfy because that’s all you deserve.

“You were the most amazing, loving, caring, mother anyone could ever ask for and the circumstances that surround this just don’t make sense.”

He went on to ask for space for his family at this time of grief.

Meanwhile, a neighbour who lives close to the scene where the PCSO was killed has raised fears of similarities with this case and the notorious Chillenden murders in 1996.

Floral tributes left at scene
Floral tributes have been left at scene

The woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “It’s just too close to home. It’s worrying.

“You associate it with what happened in Chillenden. It makes you think have we got someone going around killing people in the woods? You just don’t know do you.

“It’s such a wide remote area so presumably whoever has done this awful thing knew the area and knows all the routes out.

“We all walk over there. It’s a very popular path and a beautiful woods full of wildlife. Then suddenly this shocking tragedy. People are afraid now.”

Officers were called shortly after 4pm on Tuesday to Akholt Wood in the Aylesham Road area of Snowdown where Mrs James’ body was found.

Police forensics in snowdon
Police are continuing their investigations

Assistant Chief Constable of Kent Police Tom Richards said at the time: “Officers are carrying out a number of lines of inquiry to establish the circumstances and people in the Snowdown area will see an increased police presence as a result.

“It saddens me to confirm that the victim was a serving PCSO for Kent Police and while there is a full and thorough investigation under way our thoughts also remain with her family, friends and colleagues.

“It is vitally important that anyone who was in the area on Monday and Tuesday who may have seen something suspicious gets in touch with us.

“We’re particularly keen to speak to those who regularly visit the area who may have seen something out of place and those who drove by who have dashcam footage.

“We would advise people in the area to remain vigilant until the full circumstances of the death are established.”

People can give information by contacting Kent Police on 0800 0514 526.

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