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Julia James verdict: PCSO told son about seeing killer Callum Wheeler loitering

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Murdered PCSO Julia James told her son about seeing a weird man loitering in the area where she was killed.

Patrick Davies, 24, and daughter Bethan Coles, 33, paid tribute to Julia outside Canterbury Crown Court after seeing Callum Wheeler convicted of murder.

Patrick Davis and Bethan Coles pay tribute to their mum
Patrick Davis and Bethan Coles pay tribute to their mum

And Bethan, herself a police officer, said Wheeler would have killed again if it hadn't been for her mother's death.

He told police he would reoffend if released.

Bethan added: "He's made it clear he had intentions to attack other women. I think my mum has saved lives by losing hers."

Paying tribute Patrick said: "She was amazing. She'd light up the room with her smile. She had such a mischievous senses of humour. The amount of times we'd be in stitches in the kitchen together."

When asked what he'd say to Wheeler he said: "I wouldn't give him the pleasure of hearing my voice."

Patrick said the last time he spoke to Julia it was about helping one of his friends who had fallen on hard times.

"She was helping him get back on his feet and find himself a house. That just reiterates how she would always go out of her way to help no matter what you'd done," he said.

Asked about whether Julia had told either of them about seeing Wheeler Patrick said: "She raised concerns with me when I was living in Snowdown with her. I remember her saying she'd seen a really weird man hanging around and she was not happy with how he looked."

The jury heard during the week-long trial how Julia had also told husband Paul James about seeing the man.

“Julia James was herself aware of the presence of a strange male in the area of Ackholt Wood,” prosecutor Alison Morgan QC told the jury.

“She commented to her husband that she had passed someone she described as ‘a really weird dude’ on the Ackholt Wood bridle path."

Julia with her dog, Toby
Julia with her dog, Toby

Julia’s husband, Paul James, was walking with her in February 2021 - two months before her death - when she pointed the man out to him.

This encounter took place “just metres away from where Julia would be killed”, Ms Morgan told the court.

After Julia’s death, Paul helped police put together an e-fit of the male walker, which bore “a striking similarity” to Wheeler.

Mr James later identified Wheeler in an identity parade as the man they had seen.

Earlier today Wheeler, 22, was found guilty by unanimous verdict of murdering the mum-of-two as she walked her dog on a rural footpath near her home in the hamlet of Snowdown, between Canterbury and Dover, last April.

He refused to stand as the jury foreman delivered the verdict, but was picked up to his feet by officials.

Gasps were heard in the public gallery, where Julia's family were seen to comfort each other.

Sentencing was adjourned pending psychiatric reports, with the judge saying the hearing should be heard in Canterbury

Speaking on the steps of the court afterwards, Mr James also paid tribute to Julia.

He said: "She just helped everybody and she just couldn't do enough.

"Julia was the funniest person I ever met. I can't explain how much I love her. You have to feel that - you can't explain it in words. She was just amazing- I'm so proud of her. I just hurt so much.

"She was so small but she was massive. She stood 10 foot tall."

Paul James Picture: Barry Goodwin
Paul James Picture: Barry Goodwin

He added: “My heart would flutter every time I’d see her and I would tell her that every day, every morning, every night, and we used to call each other three or four times.

“We were on honeymoon every day, every day it was still a honeymoon.”

The couple had planned to travel, and had spent their honeymoon in Mauritius, which Mr James said was “just mind-blowing for her”, and for him the memory of seeing his wife’s joy during the trip would “last me the rest of my days”.

Mr James added: “I feel it all the time even now, her presence with me.”

Mr Davis said he was worried about Mr James because of how much he loved his mother and how happy they made each other.

Julia James was found dead by woodland near her home in Snowdown on April 27 last year
Julia James was found dead by woodland near her home in Snowdown on April 27 last year

Ms Coles added: “He made my mum really, really happy.

“The years that they have spent together have been the happiest I’ve ever seen my mum.”

“As a family, we want to get together with friends and think about not how mum’s life ended but actually how she was as a person,” she added.

Mr Davis said they will remember the “amazing life” his mother had and “not how it was ended by that monster”.

He said they have “always been a really close family”, while Ms Coles added: “We had a good life. Mum made sure of it really.”

Wearing her engagement and wedding rings on a chain around his neck, Mr James said he was “still extremely heartbroken” at her death.

He said: “My heart literally broke in half, and I’ve been trying to fix it every day.”

Speaking of the time the couple saw Wheeler Mr James said: “I went to him and spoke to him, and I asked him ‘everything alright?’

“He was so odd and he wouldn’t engage me. So I stood my ground and he walked around me.”

After that, the couple avoided the route for a couple of months, but then Julia felt safe again, and Mr James bought her a smart watch to wear while she was out.

He has had a bench built to put at a spot near the woodland that was special to the couple, known for its abundance of butterflies.

Mr James believes Wheeler would have gone on to kill again had he remained free.

He said: “For a lot of other people that would have got worse had Julia not died.

“What that guy was intending to do in my opinion, he was going to hurt many, many women, do lots of bad things.”

He also spoke out about the verdict and said: "We got what we deserve today."

The verdict brings to an end a murder case that began after the PCSO was found dead on a footpath about 400m from her home, on the afternoon of April 27 last year.

Wheeler, who was waiting in the woods, had "ambushed" and "chased down" Julia before hitting her "again and again and again" on the head using a metre-long handle of a railway jack- a tool used to lift pieces of railway track.

A clear image taken by Gavin Tucker the day after Julia's murder shows Wheeler in countryside between Aylesham and Snowdown, and led to Wheeler's identification. Picture: Kent Police
A clear image taken by Gavin Tucker the day after Julia's murder shows Wheeler in countryside between Aylesham and Snowdown, and led to Wheeler's identification. Picture: Kent Police

Following his arrest, while he was on remand in custody, Wheeler told police that if he was released he would go back to the woods to "rape and kill" women. He also said Julia had "deserved to die".

Police say no motive was established for the horrific and senseless crime, while describing Wheeler as "a complete and utter loner" who had no friends and spent the majority of his time watching TV in his bedroom.

His trial began last Monday and was initially expected to last four weeks, but has instead ended after just six days after Wheeler's defence decided to offer no evidence.

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