PCSO could have been followed for an HOUR before brutal murder as neighbour claims suspicious car parked near home

A MURDERED PCSO may have been followed for an hour before she was discovered as a local claims she saw a suspicious car near her home.

Tragic Julia James, 53, was found with serious head injuries at Akholt Wood in Snowdown, Kent, at 4.08pm last Tuesday.

Police today revealed she had left her home with Jack Russell Toby on her usual dog-walking route an hour before the brutal killing.

It had not previously been confirmed when Julia had set off after finishing a shift working from home.

The timetable has now sparked fears the mum-of-two could have been followed for an hour before she was pounced on.

Kent Police said: "We are keeping an open mind in regards to all possible lines of enquiry. 

"This is a live investigation and we continue to carry out enquiries to establish the circumstances. We will not be commenting or speculating on any individual lines of enquiry at this time."

The latest information was released in a flyer being handed out to locals today as the hunt for Julia's killer enters its ninth day.

It asks anyone who hasn't come forward yet to get in touch with police.

The flyer adds: ""Julia was found next to Akholt Wood, near to Aylesham Road, Snowdown, at around 4pm on Tuesday 27 April 2021.

"She had been out walking her dog having left her home in The Crescent nearby just after 3pm."

A woman has also revealed how she saw a suspicious-looking car parked around 30 yards from Julia's home hours before the murder.

Sheila Tanton, 68, claims the black estate car was parked on a blind bend on double yellow lines.

She said: "I thought someone might go into the back of it on the corner on the bridge over the railway line. It didn't have hazard lights on and there was no one in the car.

"It was 12.50pm on the Tuesday when I was driving to Canterbury.

"It's been playing on my mind and I've been racking my brains on what I saw when I passed here on the day she was killed. I will be reporting this to the police."

Cops are now searching an old coal mine, which is right next to where the black estate car was allegedly parked, for the first time today.

It comes after cops revealed dog Toby, who stayed beside tragic Julia's body, has been tested for DNA.

Assistant Chief Constable of Kent Police Tom Richards said: "We are building a large forensic picture and it does include the dog.

"It is being carried out, we have considered all options around Toby [the dog]."

The officer said Julia's murder is Kent Police's "number one priority" but admitted the investigation is "hugely challenging".

He added: "I'm keeping an open mind, I do not know the motive for the attack, I don't know if it's somebody she knew or if it's a stranger attack, which I know will concern residents.

"I don't know therefore if it's someone regularly in the area. We are interested in any information about it.

"We want to talk to anybody who actually saw Julia herself or anyone in the area. This is a remote location, the offender may not have approached in a conventional method.

"It was probably on foot [the offender arrived in the area] or it could be by agricultural vehicles or bikes. But this area is popular with dog walkers and for leisure purposes, so just because someone was in the area doesn't mean it is suspicious.

"I'm going to keep every option open about the motive. We are searching every location, trying to establish the route the offender took to where Julia was murdered.

"We don't know whether the offender lives locally or travelled to the area so we are looking at all modes of transport."

Police yesterday released a new picture of Julia wearing a light blue waterproof coat, blue jeans and dark coloured Wellington style brown boots.

Cops say this is the same clothing she was wearing on the afternoon she was killed.

Officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate have also released a map of some of the crime scene they are keen to receive more information about.

They are appealing for anyone who was in a red-lined area on April 27 between 1pm and 4.30pm to get in touch.

ACC Richards said: "We’re hoping that this image of Julia wearing what she wore before her death will help jog people’s memory.

"We want to hear from people who think they saw her walking Toby on that day and we also want to speak to people who were in the area that afternoon. Perhaps you were going for a run, walking your own dog, driving through or farming your land.

"We want to hear from anyone who was in the area or who saw Julia. Any and all information is welcomed and our detectives will decide what is relevant to their investigation.

"We’ve had some fantastic support already from the local community and we’re incredibly grateful for their compassion and patience whilst we carry out our enquiries."

The officer said house-to-house enquiries will be carried out in Snowdown and neighbouring Aylesham as the investigation ramps up.

Cops also stopped 449 cars on Tuesday as they carried out road checks in the area.

ACC Richards added: "Whilst we will not be telling people what they can and can’t do, we are urging people to be vigilant and to be aware of their surroundings.

"Work is still underway to establish the motive for Julia’s killing and we’re keen people stay and feel safe."

It comes as warned parents of a prowler pestering kids for pictures the day after Julia was murdered less than ten miles away.

ACC Richards said last week the force can't rule out if her killer was someone she came across in her work, a potential dog-napper or if there was a sexual motive.

Julia, who worked for the domestic violence unit, was not on duty at the time of her death or wearing uniform and had just popped out to walk the dog after working from home during the day.

All of her possessions were still with her body – with Jack Russell Toby unharmed.

Locals last night lit candles on their doorsteps at 7pm on Tuesday in memory of Julia one week on from her murder.

Devastated daughter Bethan Coles placed a blue candle next to a framed picture of her mum in the window of her home next to a white heart-shaped stone with "The ones we love are always in our hearts" printed on it.

She wrote in an emotional social media post: "There are no goodbyes for us, wherever you are, you will always be in my heart."

Thousands of well-wishers followed suit as part of the #justice4julia campaign.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was among those who joined the moment of remembrance by tweeting: "Tonight we remember PCSO Julia James. My thoughts are with her friends and family."

Home Secretary Priti Patel added: "Like many others across the country tonight, my thoughts and prayers are with Julia’s family, friends, and @kent_police colleagues."

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 or ring Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

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