Julia James: what happened to police support officer?

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The trial of Callum Wheeler at Canterbury Crown Court, accused of murdering the community support police officer while she was walking her dog, has begun.

A man has accepted killing a female police officer while she was walking her dog but denies murder.

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Julia James, 53, was found dead after walking her Jack Russell dog Toby near Ackholt Wood near her home in Snowdown, Kent, on April 27 last year.

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A jury at Canterbury Crown Court was told on Monday that Callum Wheeler, 22, from Aylesham in Kent, accepts he killed her but denies murder.

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Prosecutor Alison Morgan told the court: “Although he for some time denied responsibility for the murder, he now accepts that he was the person who killed Julia James; however, he does not acknowledge that he was guilty of murder.”

Several members of Ms James’ family were in court on Monday to hear prosecutors opening the case.

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What happened to Julia James?

Ms Morgan told jurors: “The evidence suggests her attacker waited in the woods for an attack and then ambushed her.

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“Julia attempted to escape from her attacker, but was subjected to a brutal and deadly attack.”

The court heard Mrs James saw Wheeler in Ackholt Wood near her home in the hamlet of Snowdown, Kent, in the months before her death and described him to her husband Paul as “a really odd fellow”.

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Julia James’ Apple Watch showed her heart rate had gone from 97 to 145 in seconds when she allegedly spotted Callum Wheeler in Ackholt Wood, Kent, on April 27 last year.

On the day she died, Mrs. James Wheeler saw in the same place as before.

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Ms Morgan said: “The accused was in the same place where Paul James and Julia James had previously seen him and at that point Julia James’ heart rate increased.

“She took a sudden detour off the path that leads through the wooded area.

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“She started moving along the edge of the field.”

The prosecutor continued, “She ran out of the woods, no doubt to escape her attacker, getting as far as she could along the way.”

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Ms James then fell from either an initial blow to the head or by stumbling, the court heard, and was subjected to a “violent and sustained blunt force trauma attack to the head”.

Ms Morgan said: “Given the severity of the severe injuries to her head that caused her skull to collapse, most of those injuries must have been inflicted while she was lying face down with her hood up.”

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The court heard she died “extremely quickly” from the injuries.

Prosecutors allege that Ms James was killed with a metal railway jack that was later found in the defendant’s bedroom.

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Ms Morgan told the court: “He has been waiting for Julia James or any other vulnerable woman to be in those woods. Waiting to ambush her. He chased her downstairs.

“She ran away, desperate to escape her attacker. Unable to escape from him, he was caught in rubber boots and hit her.

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What has been said about DNA evidence?

Ms Morgan went through forensic evidence found on the jack’s and Julia James’ clothing, including Wheeler’s DNA found on her boots, jacket and white vest, which she wore under a sweater.

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The prosecutor said when officers tried to arrest him at his home in Aylesham, he barricaded himself in his bedroom and made “outright denials” but later made comments such as “sometimes I do things I can’t control”.

She also told jurors that in the days leading up to his arrest, Wheeler walked around with a bag believed to contain the alleged murder weapon, avoided police, and set a cordon around the woman’s crime scene James controlled.

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The jury was told that while Wheeler denies murder, prosecutors allege that he intended to kill her, or at least cause her serious harm.

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