Julia James: What happened to the police escort?

Callum Wheeler had no connection to Julia James, 53, and offered no explanation for his actions

A man who roamed woods with a gun in his backpack has been found guilty of murdering a police officer.

Callum Wheeler, 22, used a railway jack, a tool used to raise train tracks, to beat mother-of-two Julia James to death as she walked her dog in fields and woods near the back of her home in Snowdown, Kent.

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He was seen roaming the countryside with the gun the day before the 53-year-old’s death and in the days after as hundreds of police officers scoured the area for leads.

Julia James.

On Monday afternoon a jury at Canterbury Crown Court found him guilty of the murder of Mrs James.

Upon arrest, Wheeler told officers, “Sometimes I do things I can’t control” and “You can’t go into the woods and expect to be safe.”

He also told a member of the police staff that he would return to the forest and rape and kill a woman and that Mrs James deserved death.

He had no connection to the mother-of-two and offered no explanation for his actions when questioned by police.

A jury at Canterbury Crown Court was told early in the trial that Wheeler, of Aylesham in Kent, accepted that he had killed her but denied murder.

What happened to Julia James?

Ms James was off duty on the afternoon of April 27 last year, walking her dog, a Jack Russell named Toby, near Ackholt Wood when she was killed.

Detectives used data from her Apple Watch to find out where she had gone and when and where she was attacked.

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

“Julia tried 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”.

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.

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 went up.

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

“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.”

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.”

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

What did the police and CPS say?

Detective Superintendent Gavin Moss, who led the hunt to find Mrs James’ killer, said the case was particularly poignant for police.

He said: “The death of Julia had a real impact on the whole organization because she was one of us.

“What had to happen was that justice had to prevail and we had to do what we did to catch Callum Wheeler, who was a particularly dangerous person.

“He inflicted catastrophic injuries on her.”

Witnesses were able to provide important images of Wheeler near the crime scene, including ranger Gavin Tucker, who took a video clip and photograph of him walking around with the murder weapon still in his pocket the day after he killed Julia.

When Wheeler’s picture was released to the public, he was identified and arrested within hours.

Martin Yale, Senior Crown Advocate at Crown Prosecution, said: “This is an extremely tragic case and something that simply should not have happened.

“Women should be able to walk their dog freely in the middle of the day without fear of this happening.

“It is clearly a tragic case.

“And our condolences go out to Julia’s family, the local community and the Kent Police, who employed her.

“We just hope that the outcome in this case can bring some comfort to those individuals.”

https://www.nationalworld.com/news/crime/julia-james-what-happened-police-support-officer-callum-wheeler-guilty-murder-3686465 Julia James: What happened to the police escort?

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