Julia James: Man, 21, charged with murder of PCSO appears in court for first time

A man accused of murdering PCSO Julia James has appeared in court for the first time following his arrest last week.

Wearing a grey jumper and flanked by two security officers in the dock, Callum Wheeler, 21, spoke hesitantly to confirm his name, date of birth and address at Medway Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.

He was remanded in custody to appear at Maidstone Crown Court on Thursday.

Ms James, 53, was found dead on a secluded footpath in Akholt Wood, near her home in Snowdown, Kent, just after 4pm on April 27.

Police say the 53-year-old married mum-of-two was bludgeoned to death, suffering severe head injuries, while she was out walking her Jack Russell dog, called Toby.

Wheeler, who is from nearby Aylesham, was arrested on Friday and charged with murder on Monday.

Wheeler was charged after detectives were given more time to question him in connection with the death of the police community support officer.

A number of searches have been taking place in and around Akholt Wood and Snowdown, and at a home in Aylesham.

Ms James was off-duty when she was killed, and her dog stayed next to her body until she was found, police said previously.

The mum was described as “fiercely loyal” by her heartbroken family.

Speaking after the suspect was charged, Assistant Chief Constable Tom Richards said it has been a “hugely challenging” fortnight since the death of Ms James.

He said detectives still want to hear from witnesses and the force continues to keep “all options open”.

Mr Richards said the arrest was a “huge step forward” and there is nothing to suggest more than one person was involved in Ms James’ death.

He told reporters: “As many of you will be aware, yesterday shortly after 10pm detectives … charged a gentleman, Callum Wheeler, a 21-year-old man who lives in Aylesham, with the murder of Julia.

“Today we continue to appeal for witnesses. I am confident that there were people in the area at the time that we want to speak to.”

Mr Richards said police are not “actively” seeking any further suspects in connection with the death of Julia James.

He said: “I am keeping all options open, it’s a huge step forward in the investigation, a breakthrough, that we have arrested somebody.

“I have no information to suggest at this stage that anyone else involved in this offence.

“We are not at this stage looking actively to make any further arrests.”