A dognapper was on the prowl in Kent weeks before PCSO Julia James was killed, it has emerged today.
The 53-year-old grandmother was beaten to death while out walking her Jack Russell terrier on a path through woodland close to her home in the Kent hamlet of Snowdown, near Canterbury.
No-one has yet been arrested in relation to Ms James’ death and police have not revealed a possible motive for her killing.
But it has now emerged that local police were aware of a potential dog napping incident which took place weeks before Ms James’s death.
The warning, published in a parish magazine, urges dog walkers not to go out alone and even to carry an alarm or walking stick.
Police say the warning was sparked by a report of a suspicious man in a BMW approaching two dog walkers back in March.
The man, thought to be in his 60s, is said to have offered to ‘exchange’ the pair’s dog for cigarettes.
The warning reads: ‘Dog owners are warned to be vigilant when your dog is outside the house. Your dog cannot be safely left unsupervised even in your own garden!
PCSO Julia James was killed while out walking her Jack Russell in Ackholt Wood in Snowdown, in Kent
The 53-year-old grandmother was beaten to death while out walking on a path through woodland close to her home in Snowdown
it has today emerged local police have warned residents in the area about a potential dog napping incident which took place weeks before Ms James’s death
Julia had finished her shift and headed out from home with her Jack Russell at around 3pm on Tuesday – her body, with her loyal dog sat next to it, was found at 4pm
Murdered PCSO Julia James’ family including daughter and grandson visit floral tributes
Murdered PCSO Julia James’ family have visited floral tributes as police investigate whether her killing could have had a sexual motive – or if the attack was revenge for her work in stopping domestic violence.
Julia’s colleagues yesterday pledged to leave ‘no stone unturned’ in their hunt for the killer as Kent Police continued to comb woodland.
Meanwhile, Julia’s daughter Bethan Coles, son in law Chase Coles and her young grandson Jaxxon visited a commemorative mining wheel memorial which has been covered in floral tributes from locals in Aylesham, Kent.
The group were seen kneeling down, inspecting the flowers and reading the dozens of heartfelt tributes this afternoon.
The Union Flag in the historic Market Square in Aylesham has been lowered to half mast in her honour.
It comes as police confirmed revelations that a flasher had made an indecent exposure weeks before she died from ‘blunt force injuries’ was ‘an important line of enquiry’.
Aylesham Parish Council chair Mark Townsend brought the flag down at around 2.30pm yesterday.
He said on the village green: ‘This is a fitting tribute to someone who has been an enormously valued member of our community.
We’ve never had anything like this happen here. It’s hit this community extremely hard. There’s no quick fix to this.
‘Hopefully the police will get the perpetrator.’
A blue tent has been erected in the village green as a hub for concerned residents to speak to the police.
Julia’s cousin Sam Griffin simply said ‘our family is heartbroken,’ in an Instagram tribute.
She wrote: ‘My beautiful cousin was brutally taken from us on Tuesday.
‘If anyone has any information, no matter how small…please report it to Kent Police.’
Meanwhile, Julia’s uncle Michael Turnbull pleaded for the public’s help to ‘find this monster before he can cause more grief to another family’.
‘On Tuesday, March 16, two dog-walkers were approached – in broad daylight – by a man in his 60s, from a black BMW in the lanes between Nonington and Aylesham, asking to exchange their pet dog for cigarettes and did they want to get rid of the dog anyway!
‘The advice is not to be alone, if possible. Extra precautions should be taken such as walking with a stick, keeping your dog close and on a lead, carrying an alarm and having your mobile phone fully charged.
‘Please can you report any such approaches to police, taking careful not of any car number plates and other identifying details.’
Ms James was walking her Jack Russell at the time of her death. The dog remained at the scene with her body, according to reports.
Today a source told the Sun that Ms James’ death could have been a dog napping gone ‘horribly wrong’.
The source said: ‘It’s possible the murderer was targeting her dog but it went horribly wrong.
‘The killer is not going to want to take a chipped dog knowing he’s just committed a murder.
‘He may have panicked and fled, leaving the dog.’
Today a Kent Police spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘We are keeping an open mind in regards to all possible lines of enquiry.’
It comes after the Mail revealed how a female dog walker was confronted by a prowler in a van one mile away from where Ms James was killed.
The woman is said to have been accosted by a man in a white transit vehicle as she walked along a quiet path in the village of Nonnington, Kent, two weeks ago.
The dog walker was allegedly pestered by a man in Nonnington as she walked her dog. She managed to distract him before fleeing and shouting out for help.
It is also understood PCSOs patrolling the village near Canterbury have warned women out walking their dogs to ‘veer from their normal route’ and avoid the woodland areas after their colleague’s death.
Yesterday, an uncle of murdered Ms James urged the public to help the hunt for her killer, saying: ‘Let’s find this monster before he can cause more grief to another family.’
Dozens of officers have combed the woods and surrounding fields since Tuesday afternoon when her body was found but they have yet to find a murder weapon or a significant clue to her attacker’s identity.
Heartbroken uncle Michael Turnbull, from Canterbury, appealed on social media for the public’s help to catch the killer.
‘Julia has been taken from us by some worthless, cowardly excuse for a human being for no other reason than his own sense of self-gratification to justify what he did, leaving behind a family full of broken hearts and sadness,’ he said.
Julia James on her wedding day, with her son Patrick (left) and daughter Bethan (right)
Heartbroken uncle Michael Turnbull (pictured), from Canterbury, appealed on social media for the public’s help to catch the killer
He told how she was a mother to two children, Bethan and Patrick, and a grandmother to Jaxxon. ‘Julia was funny, kind, caring, always saw the good in people and, most of all, was full of love.
‘Please share this and let us find this monster before he can cause more grief to another family.’
His moving appeal came as the police community support officer’s daughter Bethan Coles, son-in-law Chase and grandson Jaxxon paid a visit to a makeshift memorial to read the heartfelt messages left with dozens of floral tributes.
Mrs James had been working from home when she took her dog Toby for an afternoon walk.
She was seen leaving at around 3pm before her body was found an hour later on a country path with her loyal Jack Russell waiting by her side.
Kent Police investigators described a potential sexual motive for the murder as ‘an important line of inquiry’.
They declined to disclose whether her body was found fully clothed.
Detectives have also not ruled out a link to Mrs James’s work as a PCSO with the Kent force, most recently as a member of its domestic violence unit. National Crime Agency officers are also helping the investigation.
Floral tributes have been left near the scene were PCSO James was murdered. Police are still searching the area looking for the murder weapon or evidence linking the killer to the crime
Two women lay flowers in a park in Aylesham village yesterday close to the scene where PSCO Julia James was found
Two PCSOs patrol the area near to the flowers left for PCSO Julia James at a park in Aylesham village in Kent
Local residents have voiced their fears over the killer still being at large. One female dog walker reported a man in a van exposing himself to her two weeks ago, a mile from the scene of the murder.
The killing occurred just two miles from where Lin Russell, 45, and daughter Megan, six, were bludgeoned to death in 1996. Nine-year-old daughter Josie was left close to death but recovered.
Mrs James’s husband Paul, 57, a hypnotherapist she married four years ago, has so far been too upset to speak of his loss. Her son Patrick Davis, 23, has said he is devastated by his mother’s death.
Police colleagues have also been paying tribute to the PCSO, who served for 15 years, by leaving flowers by the village of Aylesham’s mining memorial not far from her home.