Tributes paid to 'murdered' PSCO 'found in woods with her dog'

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·4 min read

Watch: Police treating death of serving PCSO as murder

Neighbours have paid tribute to a female police community support officer (PCSO) who police believe was murdered, after her body was found in woodlands in Kent.

Julia James, a serving PCSO, was found dead in suspicious circumstances in a quiet hamlet in Ackholt Wood in Snowdown near Aylesham, shortly after 4pm on Tuesday.

The 53-year-old was found in an area she was known to regularly walk her dog.

Detectives have now confirmed the mother-of-two's death is being treated as murder.

The loss has shocked the tiny nearby hamlet of Snowdown, where Mrs James is believed to have lived with her husband.

Julia James was found dead in a quiet hamlet in Ackholt Wood in Snowdown near Aylesham, Kent. (SWNS)
Julia James was found dead in a quiet hamlet in Ackholt Wood in Snowdown near Aylesham, Kent. (SWNS)
Officers continue to investigate around the area where Julia James' body was found. (PA)
Officers continue to investigate around the area where Julia James' body was found. (PA)
Several fields in the area have been sealed off, with one officer saying it was a 'very big crime scene'. (SWNS)
Several fields in the area have been sealed off. (SWNS)

The hamlet of Snowdown, near Aylesham, features around 54 houses and was one of the four chief collieries of the Kent coalfield, which closed in 1987.

Home secretary Priti Patel expressed her “sincere condolences” to Mrs James’ friends, family and colleagues.

No arrests have been made, but detectives are conducting inquiries to establish the circumstances, Kent Police said.

They previously confirmed her death was being treated as suspicious but it has since been upgraded to a murder inquiry.

A police care guards the home of PCSO Julia James in Snowdown, Kent, after the discovery of her body nearby. (PA)
A police care guards the home of PCSO Julia James in Snowdown, Kent, after the discovery of her body nearby. (PA)
A floral tribute and message left close to the scene in Snowdown, Kent, where the body of PCSO Julia James was found. Kent Police have launched a murder enquiry following the discovery of the 53-year-old community support officer on Tuesday. Picture date: Thursday April 29, 2021.
A floral tribute and message left close to the scene in Snowdown, Kent, where the body of PCSO Julia James was found. (PA)

Paying tribute to James, a neighbour on Thursday said: "She was warm and friendly, had a great sense of humour and loved dogs. She was just a lovely person.

"We were going to arrange a drink after the pandemic when the weather got nice but sadly that chance has been taken from us.

"It's quite unnerving to know that's happened in a sleepy hamlet. It makes your blood run cold."

Leah Southwell, 18, who lives in the area, added: "She was one of the most lovely people I ever met. When I saw her out she would speak for hours.

"My thoughts go out to the family. I feel absolutely heartbroken for them."

Following her death, neighbour Ben Sandowe, 23, added: "She would always look out for everyone and was very friendly. She was always looking out for people and was a really, really nice lady.

"Aylesham has a reputation that people don't like the police but they let her in."

Police forensics investigators close to the scene in Snowdown, Kent, where the body of PCSO Julia James was found. Kent Police have launched a murder enquiry following the discovery of the 53-year-old community support officer on Tuesday. Picture date: Thursday April 29, 2021.
Police forensics investigators close to the scene in Snowdown, Kent, where the body of PCSO Julia James was found. (PA)
Police officers conduct a fingertip search near to the scene in Snowdown, Kent, where the body of PCSO Julia James was found. Kent Police have launched a murder enquiry following the discovery of the 53-year-old community support officer on Tuesday. Picture date: Thursday April 29, 2021.
Police officers conduct a fingertip search near to the scene in Snowdown, Kent. (PA)

Police officers were seen around the quiet cluster of homes on Wednesday afternoon as the investigation continued.

Local resident John Miller, 72, told the PA news agency: “I can’t believe it’s true to be honest, everyone feels safe round here.

“(I’m) gutted, gutted for the family and whoever it is I hope they catch them and they get put away for life.”

Julia James was found in an area she was known to regularly walk her dog. (SWNS)
Julia James was found in an area she was known to regularly walk her dog. (SWNS)
A view of the scene near Akholt Wood in Snowdown, Kent, where the body of PCSO Julia James was found. Kent Police have launched a murder enquiry following the discovery of the 53-year-old community support officer on Tuesday. Picture date: Thursday April 29, 2021.
A view of the scene near Akholt Wood in Snowdown, Kent, where the body of PCSO Julia James was found. (PA)

He told PA that he knew Mrs James’ family, whom he described as “very close”, and said what happened was a “hell of a loss”.

Several fields in the area have been sealed off while police conduct inquiries.

Police are urging anyone with information to come forward as they investigate the death of their colleague.

Assistant Chief Constable Tom Richards said Kent Police are pursuing “a number of lines of inquiry”.

A view of The Crescent in Snowdown, Kent, where PCSO Julia James lived. Kent Police have launched a murder enquiry following the death of 53-year-old Ms James after her body was found in Akholt Wood near to her home on Tuesday. Picture date: Thursday April 29, 2021.
A view of The Crescent in Snowdown, Kent, where PCSO Julia James lived. (PA)
Detectives have confirmed the Julia James' death is being treated as murder. (SWNS)
Detectives have confirmed the Julia James' death is being treated as murder. (SWNS)

He said it was “vitally important” that anyone who was in the area on Monday and Tuesday, who may have seen something suspicious, comes forward.

Richards added: “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.”

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Kent Police on 0800 0514 526, whilel anyone with video footage can submit it online.

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