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Police investigating death of PCSO Julia James in Aylesham Road, Snowdown, between Canterbury and Dover, launch murder inquiry

By: Lydia Chantler-Hicks lchantlerhicks@thekmgroup.co.uk

Published: 21:36, 27 April 2021

Updated: 07:08, 29 April 2021

Officers are continuing to scour woodland and fields this evening after a police officer's death which is being treated as a murder.

Police earlier confirmed the victim is 53-year-old PCSO Julia James. It is understood she was not on duty at the time and had been walking her dog in fields after working from her home in Snowdown.

Police officers in the area

Crews are combing acres of land near the hamlet while members of the public have been urged to stay vigilant "until the full circumstances are established".

Officers were called to Ackholt Wood off Aylesham Road at 4pm yesterday. Mrs James' Jack Russell dog was understood to have been found at the scene.

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No arrests have been made at this time but detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate are conducting inquiries to establish the circumstances.

Her death was being treated as suspicious but it has since become the subject of a murder investigation.

PCSO Julia James Picture: Gary Browne
Police officers searching woodland
Police search woodland Picture: UKNIP

Assistant Chief Constable of Kent Police Tom Richards said: "Officers are carrying out a number of lines of inquiry to establish the circumstances and people in the Snowdown area will see an increased police presence as a result.

"It saddens me to confirm that the victim was a serving PCSO for Kent Police and whilst there is a full and thorough investigation underway our thoughts also remain with her family, friends and colleagues.

"It is vitally important that anyone who was in the area on Monday and Tuesday who may have seen something suspicious gets in touch with us. 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 anyone in the area to remain vigilant until the full circumstances of the death are established."

This evening, Aylesham Road remains shut from the junction with Spinney Lane/Ackholt Road in Aylesham to The Crescent in Snowdown.

More than 20 police vehicles are lined up along Aylesham Road and a dozen portable toilets were delivered this afternoon, suggesting the investigation may take some time.

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A long line of officers have been seen doing a sweep of a field.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Kent Police Assistant Chief Constable Peter Ayling have been among those to tweet their condolences to Mrs James' friends, family and colleagues this evening.

Police parked along Aylesham Road Picture: UKNIP
Police vehicles lined up along Aylesham Road
A dozen portable toilets arrive in Aylesham Road, suggesting officers will be at the scene for some time

Officers are also guarding a field alongside the road, through which runs a footpath in the direction of Aylesham.

Several more fields in the area are also sealed off, with one officer saying it was a "very big crime scene".

It is a rural area and within the massive cordon there is believed to be just two homes and a traveller site.

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An aerial image appears to show a police tent set up next to floodlights alongside a footpath which skirts woodland.

A police tent in a field in Snowdown where officers are investigating the death of PCSO Julia James. Picture: UKNIP
Police in Snowdown this morning Picture: UKNIP

Speaking to KentOnline this morning Susan Deary, who has lived in Aylesham Road for 37 years, expressed her concern.

"It's very small here. There is only about 50 houses and most people knows every body," she said, adding: "It's very unnerving, we don't know who she is or how she got there."

Leah Southwell, 18, of The Crescent, said: "This area is normally very quiet and it is a bit weird that things are happening here, you normally walk across fields and you can't see anyone for miles, it is so peaceful.

"The last major thing to happen was 2010 when there were loads of police around.

"It was so weird to wake up to loads of blue flashing lights. Once in a blue moon you will see a police car patrolling this area."

Witnesses told KentOnline last night a footpath had been taped off and there was a heavy police presence in the area. Fire crews were also at the site last night.

A police spokesman said: "Kent Police was called at around 4.10pm on Tuesday, April 27 following the death of a woman in the Aylesham Road area of Snowdown.

"Officers are currently at the scene carrying out enquiries to establish the circumstances surrounding the incident."

Police are guarding a field near Snowdown
Forensics teams have been called to the scene
Police in Snowdown after a woman was found dead Picture: UKNIP
Emergency services in Aylesham Road, Snowdown. Picture: LKJ Media

Snowdown is a hamlet, near Aylesham, between Canterbury and Dover.

Officers are keen to speak to anyone who was in the area on Monday and Tuesday who may have seen something unusual or suspicious. They are urged to contact Kent Police on 0800 0514526. Anyone with video footage can submit it online by clicking here.

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