Man found guilty of murdering off-duty PCSO as she walked dog in woods

Man found guilty of murdering off-duty PCSO as she walked dog in woods
Jury convicts Callum Wheeler, 22, after just over an hour of deliberation

A man has been found guilty of murdering PCSO Julia James as she walked her dog in the Kent countryside near her home.

Callum Wheeler, 22, from Aylesham, Kent, admitted killing the off-duty police community support officer on the first day of his trial at Canterbury Crown Court but denied murder.

derimot, a jury convicted him of the charge after just one hour and 10 minutes of deliberations on Monday. He will be sentenced at a later date.

Wheeler did not react when the guilty verdict was delivered at Canterbury Crown Court.

When asked to stand to hear the verdict, he did not stand himself but was instead held up by members of staff in the dock.

Before retiring to deliberate their verdict on Monday, the jury was told how Wheeler was an “angry, violent, strange, highly sexualised man”.

The trial previously heard how a family out walking near Ackholt Wood on 27 april 2021 discovered Ms James’s body after they spotted her Jack Russell Toby running around with his lead still attached but no owner.

The 53-year-old was lying face down and unresponsive with serious head injuries on the edge of a farmer’s field near the woodland.

Jurors heard how data from the mother of two’s Apple smartwatch helped piece together her final movements as she took her regular route through woods near the back of her home in Snowdown, Kent, before her heartrate suddenly spiked and she ran off the woodland path.

<p>Gamekeeper Gavin Tucker captured this image of Callum Wheeler walking through fields near Aylesham, Kent, carrying a blue holdall with what prosecutors claim was the weapon used to kill PCSO Julia James </s>

Gamekeeper Gavin Tucker captured this image of Callum Wheeler walking through fields near Aylesham, Kent, carrying a blue holdall with what prosecutors claim was the weapon used to kill PCSO Julia James

Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC told the court heart rate and walking speed data and the fact the victim had a fractured left wrist indicated it was likely she was chased by her attacker and then fell either from the first blow from her attacker or by tripping.

The trial was shown a photograph taken the day after Ms James’s death by Gavin Tucker, a gamekeeper who worked for a nearby farm, which showed Wheeler carrying a blue holdall with a long object covered with carrier bags poking out of it.

The prosecution told the court the item was a metal railway jack seized from the defendant’s room which had been used to bludgeon Ms James.

A Home Office pathologist who conducted the post-mortem examination of Ms James’s body concluded she was “subjected to a very violent and sustained assault to the head” with a heavy object.

<p>Callum Wheeler, deretter 21, bludgeoned off-duty PCSO Julia James, 53, to death with a metal railway jack as she walked her dog in a Kent woodland in April 2021&st;/p>

Callum Wheeler, deretter 21, bludgeoned off-duty PCSO Julia James, 53, to death with a metal railway jack as she walked her dog in a Kent woodland in April 2021

Dr Olaf Biedrzycki told the court Ms James’s head and brain injuries would have been “completely unsurvivable even with immediate medical intervention” and were “among the worst” he had ever seen.

Before retiring to deliberate their verdict on Monday, the jury was told how Wheeler was an “angry, violent, strange, highly sexualised man”.

<p>The metal railway jack seized from Callum Wheeler’s bedroom by police after his arrest</s>

The metal railway jack seized from Callum Wheeler’s bedroom by police after his arrest

In summing up, Ms Morgan told jurors “rape” was “plainly” on Wheeler’s mind and he “intended to cause her at least really serious harm”.

The prosecutor added that Wheeler “planned this attack over many days and weeks”.

Hun sa: “He toured around the area one numerous occasions and on occasions with the weapon looking for the moment to strike.

“He knew those woods. He knew people walked dogs in those woods. He knew if he waited for the right moment there would be a lone female passing when nobody else was around.

<p>Callum Wheeler, 22, told police ‘yous are f****** dead’ after they turned up to arrest him </s>

Callum Wheeler, 22, told police ‘yous are f****** dead’ after they turned up to arrest him

“He had planned this attack and how he would carry it out. This is not some spontaneous attack of rage. This was an ambush where the defendant intended to surprise the victim.”

Pointing to the search history found on Wheeler’s laptop which showed he visited numerous pornographic websites and Googled the word “rape” two days before the attack, Ms Morgan said: “That was what the prosecution say was plainly on his mind when he was armed and ready to commit an attack of that nature.”

A post-mortem examination of Ms James’s body found no signs of “sustained or violent sexual assault”, however the pathologist who carried it out said “the lack of such injuries would not necessarily rule this out”.

<p>The body of Julia James, 53, was found on the edge of Ackholt Wood near her home in Snowdown, Kent </s>

The body of Julia James, 53, was found on the edge of Ackholt Wood near her home in Snowdown, Kent

Jurors previously heard Wheeler’s DNA was found on the left breast of Ms James’s white vest top, which she was wearing beneath a jumper and a raincoat.

Addressing jurors for the first time in his closing speech on Monday, Oliver Blunt QC, defending Wheeler, said he was 21 at the time of the offence and had no previous convictions or cautions recorded against him.

He told the court Wheeler’s behaviour before and after the killing did not make sense, and that the railway jack was unwieldy and difficult to conceal as a weapon.

Describing the attack, Mr Blunt said: “This appears to be a completely motiveless, random, senseless, inexplicable incident.”

He told the jury they must decide: “Did Mr Wheeler have the clarity of purpose on 27 April to form the intent to kill or do serious harm, or was it simply a question of doing some harm at the very least?”

He also argued there was no evidence of sexual assault, including on Ms James’s lower clothing.

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