Cops investigate if PCSO, 53, was murdered by a STRANGER in 'random attack' as they warn public to be vigilant

POLICE are investigating whether a PCSO was murdered by a stranger in a random attack as they hunt her killer.

Julia James, 53, was tragically discovered in Akholt Wood in Snowdown, near Dover on Tuesday afternoon – with her loyal Jack Russell beside her.

The tragedy bears a chilling similarity to the brutal hammer murders just two-and-a-half miles away in Chillenden in 1996.

Police are now treating Julia's death as murder with locals urged to remain vigilant.

They are probing whether the mum, who had worked for the police for 15 years and was commended for bravery, was the victim of a random attack carried out by a stranger.

But cops haven't confirmed if Julia, who is thought to have worked in the domestic violence unit at Kent Police, was on duty at the time.

No arrests have been made and a post-mortem will be carried out to establish a cause of death.

It comes as Julia's ex Wayne Davis told how their sobbing son Patrick, 23, revealed the heartbreaking news she had been killed to the family.

He told The Sun: “The first I heard of it was last night.

"I asked my son if he knew what was happening in Snowdown.

"He said to begin with he didn’t, but there was police everywhere. I said I’d heard a woman has lost her life. 

“Then a bit later, the phone rang and he said, 'Dad, it’s Mum’. He was crying and crying.

“He was devastated. Julia was the love of my life, but we separated, as couples sometimes do.

“She was a lovely woman. She was walking her dog a lot.

“What she did as a PCSO was not just a job – it was a way of life."

And he raised the frightening possibility someone knew where Julia was when she began her walk.

“What I personally find odd, is it’s happened in the middle of nowhere," he said.

“It’s a mystery. The police know more than what they’re saying – they want to catch who has done it. 

“For something like that to happen, in the middle of nowhere – you don’t know whether it’s just random."

Julia's body was discovered near Chillenden, where mum Lin and six-year-old daughter Megan Russell were murdered in a random hammer attack in 1996. 

Lin's older daughter Josie, then nine, suffered horrific injuries but survived.

Michael Stone was jailed over the killings with his earliest chance of release in 2023, when he will be 63.

The Chillenden murders

Julia James’ body was found in Snowdown, Kent – just two-and-a-half miles from Chillenden.

In 1996, Michael Stone slaughtered Dr Lin Russell, 45, and her six-year-old daughter Megan, along with the family dog.

He also tried to kill nine-year-old Josie Russell, who miraculously survived the horror.

The family were tied up, blindfolded and attacked with a hammer as they walked in a country lane in the Kent village.

Following the horrific incident, Josie and her father Shaun moved to Dyfrryn Nantlle, Gwynedd, Wales Online reported.

And Josie has gone on to see great success as an artist. She got engaged in 2018, when she said she hopes to be a mum.

Stone's earliest chance of release will be in 2023, when he will be 63.

Lawyers acting for him have claimed there is "compelling evidence" linking Levi Bellfield to the Russell killings.

Neighbours say Julia may have been working from home when she took the dog for a walk after finishing in the afternoon.

Local Sean Simmonds believes he is the last person to have seen tragic Julia alive.

He said: "I was polishing my car on the driveway and I looked up and saw Julia walking past on the other side of the road with the dog.

"She was heading towards the woods at the back, I'd occasionally bump into her there when I was out walking my two dogs.

"I didn't see her come back. Around 4pm, the police arrived and started cordoning off the area."

The 57-year-old paramedic added: "I might have been the last person to see her alive.

"It’s chilling."

Mum-of-two Julia, who has a grandson, became a PCSO in 2007 and was commended for bravery three years later after chasing down a shoplifter.

After she moved to the town of Tenterden to continue her role in 2013, she told a local paper: "I am a people person and love being in the community."

Devastated locals say she was a pillar of the small community of Snowdown.

One neighbour of Julia’s broke down in tears when he paid tribute.

He said: “It’s heartbreaking – absolutely tragic.

“I can’t believe it. She was a loving mum and the pillar of the community.

“This is devastating. She was a lovely woman. A terrific part of the community.

“Her family transformed the house and improved it greatly. It was a great comfort having a PCSO there.

“They’re a lovely family."

Officers were yesterday seen guarding a field alongside Aylesham Road with several others sealed off as they investigate.

An aerial image from the scene appears to show a police tent set up next to floodlights in a nearby field.

There is still a large police presence in the area today with officers seen carrying out fingertip searches.

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

"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."

Home Secretary Priti Patel also tweeted, saying: "So saddened to hear of the death of Kent Police PCSO Julia James. I offer my sincere condolences to Julia’s friends, family and colleagues at this awful time."

Officers are keen to speak to anyone in the area on Monday or Tuesday who may have seen something unusual or suspicious.

Anyone with information should call 0800 0514526.

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