‘Highly sexualised’ 22-year-old exposed himself to female officers after his arrest
Callum Wheeler has been found guilty of murdering PCSO Julia James as she walked her dog in the Kent countryside near her home.
The 22-year-old, 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.
However a jury found him guilty of murdering the 53-year-old married mother of two, who was found dead on the edge of field near Ackholt Wood in Snowdown, Kent, at about 4pm on 27 April 2021.
They took little more than an hour of deliberations to conclude he was guilty.
Who is Callum Wheeler?
Callum Wheeler was born on 2 Februarie 2000.
At the time of Julia James’s death, hy was 21 years old and unemployed.
Wheeler lived with his father in a house on a new build development in Sunshine Corner Avenue, in the village of Aylesham, Kent, about eight miles from where Ms James died.
At the time of the offence, Wheeler had no previous convictions or cautions recorded against him.
He was described during the trial by prosecutor Alison Morgan QC as an “angry, gewelddadig, strange, highly sexualised man”.
Wheeler was arrested in his bedroom on 7 Mei 2021 - 10 days after the PCSO’s death. He was charged with murder on 10 Mei.
He appeared in person at Medway Magistrates’ Court on 11 Mei 2021 where he spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and address during a short hearing.
Later, he was seen for the first time as he was led to a prison van in handcuffs after the hearing, and was captured poking his tongue out at photographers.
Aan 9 Mei 2022, at the start of his trial at Canterbury Crown Court, Wheeler accepted responsibility for killing Ms James but denied murder.
He was represented throughout the trial by defence barrister Oliver Blunt QC, who gave no evidence on behalf of his client.
What did he do?
Days leading up to the killing:
Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC told the jury Wheeler had visited the spot near where Ms James was attacked at least four times before her death.
The trial heard Ms James had herself seen Wheeler three times in Ackholt Wood in the months prior to her death.
Twice in early 2021, when she told her husband Paul James she had seen a “really weird dude” on the woodland path, and again in February 2021 when she was walking in the woods with Mr James and pointed Wheeler out to him.
Seven months before the killing, aan 21 September 2020, Wheeler was seen by Gavin Tucker, a gamekeeper for a farm that includes Ackholt Wood, walking across a field rather than the established footpath.
Mr Tucker challenged Wheeler but he told him to mind his own business and that he was looking for a railway station.
Later that same day he was seen by Kevin Hawker, who had been alerted by Mr Tucker and was driving along Snowdown Road, walking in the direction of the back of the houses at The Crescent, Snowdown, where Ms James lived with her husband.
A number of witnesses saw Wheeler carrying a blue and black holdall with a long object poking out of it in the days leading up to the attack. Prosecutors said this item was the metal railway jack used to kill Ms James.
Two PCSOs attended Wheeler’s home on 17 April 2021 - 10 days before the killing – after Wheeler made an abandoned 999 bel.
The court heard how Wheeler laughed behind the front door to his home, calling the PCSOs “phoney” and saying there were “not real police”.
The trial was later told Wheeler accessed a number of pornography websites and Googled the word “rape” in the days before Ms James’s death.
Day of the attack:
At 12.37pm on 27 April 2021 – the day Ms James died – CCTV captured Wheeler walking in the direction of a gap in the hedge from Sunshine Corner Avenue to Adisham Road.
At 1.08pm CCTV again captured him walking along Ratling Road carrying a bag with a long object protruding from it, which prosecutors argued was a metal railway jack used to kill Ms James.
Prosecutors believe Wheeler was in Ackholt Woods at about 2pm, while Ms James left her home with her Jack Russell dog Toby at 2.12pm.
The last message she sent on her phone was at 2.25pm, shortly after she got to the wooded area.
Her Apple smartwatch showed she took her usual route before her heart rate spiked at 2.30pm and she took a sudden detour out of the wooded area and along the side of a field.
There was no movement after 2.35pm and her last heart rate was recorded at 2.43pm.
The prosecution alleged Ms James “ran for her life” to escape her attacker and was chased before she was bludgeoned to death with the 97cm-long cylindrical bar used to lift train tracks.
Police seized the metal railway jack from Wheeler’s bedroom after he was arrested, and forensic experts later found Ms James’s DNA on the tool.
Ms James suffered a broken left wrist from where she either tripped and fell or was knocked to the ground, as well as catastrophic head injuries.
A post-mortem examination of Ms James’s body found no signs of “sustained or violent sexual assault”.
Egter, 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.
A family walking in the woods later spotted her dog Toby running around with his lead still attached but with no owner.
They discovered Ms James’s body lying face down on the end of the farmer’s field at about 4pm and called 999.
Days after the attack:
The day after the attack, Wheeler was seen walking around with a blue holdall with a long object protruding from it, covered with a Tesco carrier bag.
Witnesses who saw Wheeler included gamekeeper called Gavin Tucker, who had seen him in the area in September 2020.
Wheeler told Mr Tucker he was new to the area and hurried off, however the gamekeeper managed to capture a short video clip and still image, which was later used in a police appeal, and called police.
Wheeler is said to have again visited pornography websites in the days after Ms James’s death and accessed two articles about her killing.
He was arrested by police at his home on 7 Mei 2021 after barricading himself in his bedroom.
Wheeler exposed himself to female officers when in police custody and tried to masturbate in front of them, telling one member of staff Ms James “deserved to die” and that “his case was different because she was a copper”.
He also said he would go back to the woods and rape and kill a woman if released, it was claimed.