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Police forensic team search house near field where PCSO Julia James' body was found

A police forensic team has searched a house near the field where PCSO Julia James's bludgeoned body was found after they arrested a British man in his 20s.

Officers carried bagged-up items out of the new build in Aylesham, Kent, this morning, near where the 53-year-old mother of two was discovered in Snowdown on April 27.

It comes after detectives detained a British man in his 20s from the Canterbury area at 9.30pm on Friday and remanded him in custody.

The National Crime Agency said it was still supporting the local force with officers from its Major Crime Investigative Support unit as well as giving access to specialists.

Neighbours of Mrs James earlier said they are too scared to leave home alone amid fears the killer could be someone they know.

Women are frightened to walk their dogs on their own and the local running club has told members they should exercise in pairs.

Kira and Sam Mandon-Jones, who walked their rescue dog Mocha two weeks ago in the wood near where Mrs James' body was found, said they will no longer take that route.

And a woman called Annette now refuses to take her border terrier Sidney to the area by herself, saying she 'definitely wouldn't go over the fields'.

Mrs James' husband Paul broke his silence yesterday to write on Facebook 'I miss you so much Luvly xxx' under an image of the two.

Two forensic police officers carry away materials from the house in Aylesham, Kent, this morning as they continued their searches

Forensic teams searched a house in Aylesham, Kent, this morning, near where the 53-year-old mother of two was found bludgeoned to death in a field in Snowdown on April 27

Police this morning taped off the house in Aylesham as forensic officers conducted searches. Two officers stood outside the detached property on a new build housing estate on the outskirts of the village

Forensic teams on the scene in Aylesham are pictured during their searches of the house. It comes after they arrested s suspect last night 

Its curtains were drawn across the front downstairs and upstairs windows and photo frames can be seen on the downstairs front windowsill

Women are frightened to walk their dogs on their own and the local running club has told members to run in pairs after the 53-year-old (pictured) was killed in Snowdown, Kent, on April 27

Kira and Sam Mandon-Jones, who walked their rescue dog Mocha two weeks ago in the wood near where Mrs James' body was found, said they will no longer take that route. Pictured: Mrs James with her Jack Russell Toby

A Kent Police spokesman said this morning: 'Officers investigating the death of Julia James have arrested a man in connection with her murder.

'A man in his 20s from the Canterbury area was arrested at 9.30pm on Friday 7 May 2021, and remains in custody.'

Assistant Chief Constable Tom Richards added: 'We continue to urge anyone with information, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, to contact us.

'If you were in the Snowdown area between 1pm and 4.30pm on Tuesday 27 April, please contact us.

'This includes anyone local who may have seen something out of place at the time, or who came across someone who made them feel uneasy - such as feeling compelled to cross the road or change the route they were walking.'

NSIOA Noel McHugh, from the NCA's Major Crime Investigative Support unit, added: 'The NCA is providing a significant amount of our niche capabilities in support of this high-priority investigation led by Kent Police.

'While we cannot go into any further detail in order to protect the investigation, I hope outlining the breadth of our work illustrates our commitment to seeking justice for Julia.

'MCIS officers are extremely experienced in supporting such investigations and, along with the wider NCA, work closely with police forces throughout the UK every day as part of our collective, whole system response to tackle serious crime.'

Police this morning taped off the house in Aylesham as forensic officers conducted searches. Two officers stood outside the detached property on a new build housing estate on the outskirts of the village.

Officers with clipboards were going door to door, speaking to people living in surrounding houses. A blue Suzuki Celerio was parked in the driveway by the side of the two-storey house.

Its curtains were drawn across the front downstairs and upstairs windows and photo frames can be seen on the downstairs front windowsill. 

Officers with clipboards were going door to door, speaking to people living in surrounding houses. A blue Suzuki Celerio was parked in the driveway by the side of the two-storey house 

A picture of the scene in Aylesham earlier today shows police officers from Kent Police conducting searches of the house near where her body was found

Masked police officers talk outside the house being searched by forensic officers today. It comes the morning after they arrested a suspect in the case

Police officers from Kent Constabulary are pictured holding clipboards as they stand outside the house being searched this morning 

Police cars line a road in Kent in connection with the murder of Mrs James on Saturday morning. Searches were conducted near where her body was found in a field

Meanwhile Mrs James's neighbour Mrs Mandon-Jones said she had walked her and her husband Sam's rescue dog Mocha in the fields towards Akholt Wood near Aylesham two days before Mrs James was found.

The 29-year-old graphic designer told the Guardian: 'This is such a lovely route. We'll do it every week. But not now.' Her business analyst husband, 31, added: 'There's this kind of feeling that it could be anyone you know.'

Meanwhile another local, Annette, said she no longer walks her border terrier Sidney in the area. She said: 'I don't want to go out on my own, and I definitely wouldn't go over the fields. She was just like me, walking her dog.'

And admin worker Elina Petrusevica, 31, revealed before Mrs James was bludgeoned to death she was already weary of walking on her own due to a number of dognappings nearby.

She said women in her running club are now always exercising with others and she only walks her chocolate labrador Oakley in the village unless she is with her partner. 

Earlier, Chief Constable Alan Pughsley had said he did not know who the killer was, if they were a man or woman, what weapon was used nor what the motive was. A post-mortem found she died from significant head injuries.

Mrs James' husband Paul, 57, changed his Facebook profile picture yesterday to he and Mrs James and wrote: 'I miss you so much Luvly xxx'. It is believed to be the first time Mr James has commented.

He also used a 'Help us find #justiceforjulia' frame around the picture - which Mrs James' son in law Chase Coles said more than 8,600 have added to help the family's appeal.

Kent Police this week expanded their search area around the small village and have been looking for clues at several locations, including the woodland.

And Crimestoppers was offering a reward of up to £10,000 for information leading to the conviction of Mrs James' killer.

Commenting on the reward on Facebook, Mr Coles wrote: 'Huge thank you to Crime Stoppers who are now offering a £10,000 reward for anyone with crucial information.

'Please, we have to keep sharing all we can! Someone knows something! Julia was taken from us in such a barbaric way. No family should have to endure this.

'We need to find the inhuman and absolute evil person responsible before it happens again! They cannot be allowed to walk among us!'

A officer speaks to another as he holds a serious crime scene log as forensics conducted their searches on Saturday morning 

Three members of Kent Police stand outside the house that was searched by forensics in Aylesham on Saturday morning following the arrest last night 

Three officers stand outside the house in Aylesham on Saturday morning as forensic enquiries continued. The house is in a village near where Mrs James' body was found

Mrs James was found near her home in Snowdown, Kent, on April 27. Pictured: Police continuing their search around the Spinney Lane area on Thursday

Kent Police's Assistant Chief Constable Tom Richards held a press briefing (pictured) yesterday

 The image of the man - which shows him wearing a black hoodie and carrying a duffle bag - was hoped to mark a major breakthrough for baffled Kent Police. But they later said they needed no more information about him after he was identified

Paul James, 57, changed his Facebook profile picture to he and Mrs James and commented underneath it: 'I miss you so much Luvly xxx'

It is believed to be the first time Mr James has commented publicly since Mrs James, 53, was found bludgeoned to death in woodland with a 'severe traumatic injury' near her home in Snowdown, Kent, on Tuesday, April 27

Detectives 'do not know the motive of the attack' or if killer was a random stranger

A number of key issues were raised at a press conference into the murder yesterday afternoon:

'Motiveless attack'

Assistant Chief Constable of Kent Police Tom Richards said detectives investigating the murder of PCSO Julia James are still are not aware of a motive and have not made any arrests.

Speaking eight days after the incident, he told a press conference he is keeping 'an open mind', adding: 'I do not know the motive of this attack. I do not know if it's somebody she knew.

'I do not know if it's a stranger attack, of course that possibility is particularly frightening to local residents.'

Appeal for witnesses

He said he wants to hear from people who were in the location on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of last week.

'We're genuinely interested in any information. If anybody has got any concerns, any suspicions, we really want to hear about it,' he said.

'Most experienced investigators' working on the case 

ACC Tom Richards said the PCSO Julia James case is 'a hugely challenging investigation', adding: 'Of course in many, many such investigations we have a suspect right from the outset or very, very early on.'

He said the 'most experienced investigators' are working on the case.

'It's why we're keeping that open mind and we're looking at every single possibility, but of course it's why I'm appealing today for as much assistance from the public as possible.

'I think the public are one of our most important assets in this investigation.

'They've been absolutely fantastic in their support, but I do need that to continue.

'I'm hoping the picture we've released today might just spark a memory in someone,' he said.

Murder is 'number one priority' for force 

Kent Police is treating the case of murdered PCSO Julia James as its 'number one priority', the force's assistant chief constable Tom Richards has said.

Speaking at Folkestone Police Station on Wednesday afternoon, he told reporters: 'I'm confident we're going to put absolutely every effort into it, we're meeting with the family, we're giving them those reassurances, this is the number one priority for Kent Police at the moment.

'This type of attack is incredibly rare, we're not linking it to any other offences which makes it a particularly difficult investigation.

'But we've got the very best staff working and every resource necessary dedicated to this inquiry.'

A special 'Justice for Julia' Facebook page was also set up on Thursday in an attempt to 'Turn Facebook blue for Julia' to keep her at the forefront of people's minds. 

While Kent Police said yesterday they did not know what the murder weapon was, Chief Constable Pughsley told BBC Radio Kent Mrs James was killed in the 'most brutal of circumstances'.

When asked whether the killer had struck before, Mr Pughsley said: 'I hope not.'

The chief constable said he has asked national police forces to help in their investigations to take the pressure of worn out Kent officers who are working '24 hours, seven days a week'.

He said the National Crime Agency has been drafted in to investigate the 'style of the attack', as well as the killer's motive.

Other officers will help with door-to-door inquiries for the next four to six weeks, he added, while some work on the 'painstaking' inch-by-inch finger search of the scene where Mrs James' body was found.

He said: 'It's a massive case. As you would imagine we throw absolutely everything at every murder and this is a murder of Julia in the most brutal of circumstances on April 27.

'So pretty much since that time we've had hundreds and hundreds of officers and staff working 24 hours, seven days a week.'

He added: 'We're about to go to national police forces to ask for some help on that, that went out on my behalf yesterday. 

'And as you would expect pretty much every single chief constable in the land is offering whatever assistance they can to help find the murderer.'

He said the force did not know the motive for Mrs James' murder, but said they have 'a really wide mind to why this has happened'.

Mr Pughsley added: 'We do not at this time have a focused suspect. We have lots of lines of inquiry, lots of people to think about, lots of work to do.

'But we need to just get that little bit of luck, little bit of public information, little bit of forensic examination to come back to identify this individual so we can capture him or her.'

When asked why he was reaching out to national forces, he replied: 'So there's probably three things.

'The style of the attack. We've got expertise from the national crime agency who have been really helpful with regards to motive and/or any other reason this person may have done that, so there's some specialism coming in from the NCA.

'We've got lots of detectives doing house to house and investigative work. But also, as much as they don't want to, they need a little bit of a rest every now and again.

'So we've got detectives coming in from other forces to help us for the next maybe four to six weeks. And then we've got the painstaking, but incredibly important, inch-by-inch finger search of the scene which as you know was a massive rural area.

'We are looking for that tiny piece of evidence whether it be on an exit route or an entry route or somewhere along the way to identify and again tie in the murderer. As for the suspect, we are not narrow on that.

'We are looking anywhere for the suspect, whether or not he or she travelled into the area, whether they're from the area, whether they're a Kent resident, whether they're further afield.

'It matters not to us. We are looking wide and broad for him or her.' He said the force is 'not 100 per cent sure' on what weapon was used to kill Mrs James.

He added: 'It was a severe traumatic injury to Julia but it would be wrong to talk about what style of weapon was used until we: One, have the suspect and two, have some more detail about the weapon that was used.'

Officer were seen to enter the former Snowdown Colliery at around 1pm on Thursday afternoon as part of their search

Police vans on Thursday parked outside a former colliery site near PCSO Mrs James' home as the police search for clues in relation to her death

When asked if the killer had struck before he said: 'To be fair, I don't know. That's a brutally honest answer. I don't know.

'Because we don't know yet who the killer is. I hope not and we're going to do everything we can to try and capture this person as quickly as we possibly can.'

Appealing to the attacker, he said yesterday: 'You will never ever ever completely get away with this. You'll have to keep looking over your shoulder and at some stage we'll be there to get you and we will get you. The best thing you can do is hand yourself in.'

On Tuesday police patrols stopped a total of 449 cars and spoke to drivers and passengers who could have information.

The force on Thursday released a map of the local area, saying they remain keen to hear from anyone who was inside a red section of fields between 1pm and 4.30pm on the day Mrs James was murdered.

Mick Duthie, director of operations at charity Crimestoppers, announced a reward of up to £10,000 for any anonymous information that leads to the conviction of Mrs James' killer.

He said: 'The public, like our charity, have been horrified at this heart-breaking loss of such an innocent life. Our thoughts are very much with Julia's family and friends at this terrible time.

'Crimestoppers is here to help people who – for whatever reason – won't or can't speak directly to the police, but want to do the right thing. By contacting our charity with information, we guarantee that you will stay 100 per cent anonymous.

Search teams on Thursday expanded their perimeter and could be seen examining hedgerows and a field around a mile away from a white forensic tent where Mrs James' body was found

'We're not interested in who you are and will never ask for your details – all we want is information, however small, that might help find those behind this murder.

'Julia's life has mercilessly been taken away. If you know who was involved, please remember our charity's unique service guaranteeing your anonymity is here for you.

'Crimestoppers has been taking crime information since our charity began in the late 1980s. Every day over a thousand people contact us online and over the phone.

'By contacting us, you can help – anonymously – to have the person behind Julia's murder face up to the consequences of their violent actions and you may even prevent someone else from coming to harm.

'Our UK Contact Centre is open 24/7 on 0800 555 111 or you can use our simple and secure anonymous online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.'

Earlier this week, it emerged a driver spotted a car dangerously parked near the PCSO's home shortly before she was killed.

Sheila Tanton, 68, drives past Snowdown - the quiet hamlet near Dover where Mrs James was brutally murdered last week - from her home in Elvington every Tuesday and Thursday when visiting her mother in Canterbury.

She said she noticed a black estate car near the entrance of a disused coal mine - which was searched for the first time by police on Thursday - a few hours before the attack took place - between 3pm and 4pm.

Ms Tanton said: 'I didn't really pay much attention at the time but I know it was a black estate car. It looked pretty new as it was lovely and gleaming.

'It stuck in my memory because of how stupidly it was parked on a blind bend on double yellow lines. I thought someone might go into the back of it on the corner on the bridge over the railway line. It didn't have hazard lights on and there was no one in the car.

'It was 12.50pm on the Tuesday when I was driving to Canterbury. It's been playing on my mind and I've been racking my brains on what I saw when I passed here on the day she was killed. I will be reporting this to the police.'

Kent Police declined to comment on Ms Tanton's discovery, after detectives insisted they would not provide a 'running commentary' on the investigation.

The car was parked around 30 yards from an entrance into Snowdown, where Mrs James lived.

Detectives began searching the disused Snowdown Colliery, which is next to where the black estate car was allegedly parked and is 400 yards from Mrs James' home, for the first time on Thursday.

Officers were seen inside the old coal mine - which closed in 1987 - searching around the multiple derelict buildings.

Two marked Kent Police Land Rovers and a Ford Kuga from the Rural Task Force were parked in the entrance to the eerie setting. Two were seen peering inside the corrugated iron roof of an outbuilding for clues.

The red brick buildings, many of which are covered in graffiti and have windows smashed in, are surrounded by spiked fencing and razor wire.

Signs warn 'DANGEROUS BUILDINGS. KEEP OUT,' and 'These premises are protected by dog patrols,' with 24 hour CCTV in operation.

But the six-foot high, rusted entrance gate is easily jumpable and the private property is popular with urban explorers.

The report of a black car follows a police notice warning of a man in his 60s in a black BMW who approached two dog walkers down a quiet country lane in nearby Nonington on March 16.

He offered them cigarettes in exchange for their pooches and asked if they wanted rid of them anyway - leading police to warn of dog abductors and call for vigilance.

Meanwhile, it emerged this week detectives believe Mrs James left her home only around an hour before she was found bludgeoned to death.

She had taken her beloved Jack Russell Toby out for a walk when she was brutally attacked. Detectives hunting the killer tested the dog for forensic clues to try and track down her murderer.

Police had not previously revealed what time she left the house in the quiet hamlet near Dover, where she was working that afternoon, before her body was discovered at 4.08pm.

But a new appeal for information leaflet now suggests that Mrs James set off just after 3pm once she finished her shift.

It was only around 60 minutes later members of the public found her dead on a public bridle path on the edge of Ackholt Wood, and called the police.

The flyer being handed out locally read: 'Kent Police is keen to speak to anyone who is yet to come forward with information about the murder of PCSO Julia James.

'Julia was found next to Ackholt Wood, near to Aylesham Road, Snowdown, at around 4pm on Tuesday 27 April 2021. She had been out walking her dog having left her home in The Crescent nearby just after 3pm.'

It urged anyone who was in the remote area on Monday or Tuesday who may have seen anything unusual or suspicious to call Kent Police.

Police also released a picture of Mrs James with Toby wearing the same clothes she was in before she was bludgeoned to death on a remote country footpath.

Mrs James' nephews Ryan and Dan have said their aunt's 'smile and humour could light up the darkest of rooms'.

They wrote in a heartbreaking tribute on a bunch of flowers left in Aylesham's historic market square: 'Auntie Julia. We all miss you so very much.

'Your smile and humour could light up the darkest of rooms. Words can't describe how much we all miss you. The world is most certainly a better place for having you in it. All our love. Ryan and Dan.'

Another floral tribute had a card titled 'with fond memories of sister-in-law' which read: 'Words can't say how much we will miss you. A beautiful soul inside and out. Rest in peace. Robert and Sharon.'

Kent Police's East Kent Task Force Team also left a bunch of flowers. Their tribute read: 'PCSO Julia James. Thank you for your service. You are truly missed from your police family.'

It was accompanied with the #justiceforjulia hashtag which is being used on social media to help keep the murder in the public eye.

Another card read: 'With heartfelt condolences from the women of Reclaim These Streets Deal. R.I.P Julia.'

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