Why we’re talking about . . .

What happened to Kent PCSO Julia James?

Man charged with murder of 53-year-old who was found dead in April

A 21-year-old man has appeared in court charged with the murder of police community support officer Julia James, who was found dead near her home in Kent last month.

The 53-year-old mother of two was walking her dog when she is believed to have been attacked on a footpath on the edge of Ackholt Wood, in the village of Snowdown, near Dover.

Callum Wheeler, from Aylesham, was arrested on Friday. Today, at Medway Magistrates' Court, he spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and address. Wheeler was remanded in custody and is due to appear at Maidstone Crown Court on Thursday.

What do police know?

James had been working at home before taking a walk towards Akholt Wood on Tuesday 27 April. Members of the public discovered her body at around 4pm, with her Jack Russell, Toby, “waiting by her side”, reports The Times. A post-mortem examination found that she had died of significant head injuries.

As part of the investigation, officers scoured woodland and fields close to where her body was found, carried out random vehicle stops and were advised by the National Crime Agency on specialist forensic search techniques. They were also seen searching an old coal mine as part of their search for evidence.

Ten days after her death, police arrested Wheeler and said they were not “actively” seeking any further suspects. They have, however, issued a fresh appeal for witnesses, saying “detectives were confident some people who were in the area at the time of Ms James’s death have yet to come forward”, reports the BBC.

The broadcaster said the police had received about 1,000 pieces of information from the public.

‘A beautiful nod to Mum’

James leaves behind a 31-year-old daughter, 23-year-old son and infant grandson. Her daughter, Bethan Coles, who also works for the police, ruled out a vigil for her mother last week, saying the family would “prefer all police resources to be concentrating on the investigation”.

Instead, mourners left candles on their doorsteps to remember James - a gesture described by Coles as a “beautiful nod to Mum in a way that doesn’t intrude on the police investigation”. A minute’s silence was also observed by Kent Police.

‘Where is the uproar?’

Both James’s family and commentators have questioned why the killing has not triggered the level of public outrage that followed that of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who was murdered while walking home in London in March.

Posting on Facebook last week, James’ cousin Samantha Griffin asked: “Where is the uproar about my beautiful cousin? Where is the huge outrage and pouring of despair? Where are the vigils and protests about her murder?”

Echoing that sentiment, The Times columnist India Knight asked: “Is James’s death somehow less horrifying, less tragic, than the death of a young, photogenic woman?”

James’ family launched a social media campaign, #justiceforjulia, to help to keep the murder investigation in the public eye. 

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