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Daughter of Julia James leads candlelight vigil in touching tribute to murdered PCSO

A candlelight vigil has been organised to pay tribute to Julia James this evening.

A week on from the discovery of the 53-year-old’s body, her grieving daughter Bethan Coles is encouraging people to leave candles on their doorsteps as a “beautiful nod” to the police community support officer.

The woman’s body was found in Akholt Wood, close to her home in the village of Snowdown, near Dover, Kent.

The PCSO, who was described as “fiercely loyal” by her family, died from serious head injuries while walking her dog.

Police have launched an investigation but no arrests have been made so far and the motive of the killing has not been discovered yet.

A local police chief assured the community that “some of the very best detectives in the land” are working to bring Ms James’s killer to justice.

Family members and neighbours placed candles outside their homes to remember Julia James
Family members and neighbours placed candles outside their homes to remember Julia James

A minute’s silence in Ms James’s memory was observed by officers and staff from across Kent Police at 2.30pm today.

In a Facebook

post, Ms Coles said: “A number of people have asked about holding a vigil for Mum, and whilst I am so grateful for people wanting to remember her, I am very conscious that any gathering would need to be policed (if it was even allowed).

“I’ve discussed this with my family and we are in agreement that we would prefer all police resources to be concentrating on the investigation as there is so much work to be done.”

Patrick James, the son of PCSO Julia James, looks at floral tributes left near her family home
Patrick James, the son of PCSO Julia James, looks at floral tributes left near her family home

Instead, she suggested people wishing to remember her mother should light a candle for her and leave it on their doorstep.

She added: “This would be a beautiful nod to Mum in a way that doesn’t intrude on the police investigation.”

Following the killing, police in Dover have urged members of the public to be “cautious, vigilant and aware of your surroundings” while out and about.

Candles have been placed outside homes to remember the PCSO
Candles have been placed outside homes to remember the PCSO

At a press conference on Friday, Kent Police Assistant Chief Constable Tom Richards declined to rule out that Ms James was killed by a stranger, someone she came across during her work, someone trying to steal her dog, or as part of a sexual assault.

Mr Richards would not comment on any potential murder weapon and also declined to say whether detectives had found signs of a struggle.

The body of Julia James was found on Tuesday
The body of Julia James was found by Kent Police on Tuesday

Villagers living close to the murdered PCSO joined in with the tributes to her at 7pm this evening.

Janet Mellin, 75, who has lived in Aylesham since she was born, joined her neighbours in lighting candle in memory of Julia James.

She said: “God bless Julia. It’s a very very sad time.

“As a child I can remember her but I’ve not seen her for a long time. She was a lovely, lovely person.

“Her murder has just rocked this village like no tomorrow. Everytime I see it on the TV I’m crying. I’m sobbing.

“I’m thinking why? Why? It’s just so terrible. God bless her family and all the people she has worked with and children.”

Mrs Mellin, a retired care worker, added that she felt unsafe since the brutal murder and was now locking her doors the second she arrived home.

Christine Thompson, 64, a healthcare assistant, said many of her work colleagues would be joining her in lighting a candle on their doorsteps in memory of Julia.

A lady who runs Aylesham Post Office, but wished not to give her name, said many of her customers were joining her in paying tribute to Julia, her customer of 30 years tonight.

She said: “Julia was a very pleasant lady and politely spoken and always smiling, very happy and bubbly. She was my customer for 30 years.

“It’s sad and we can feel it in the village air. It’s an eerie feeling. But people want to pay tribute. What’s most worrying is it happened so close to the village.

Flowers left in memory of Julia James
Flowers left in memory of Julia James

“I like to go on my bike alone and I was thinking about going on those fields. But my husband was like ‘don’t go’.

“I think it will take until they catch someone to feel safe again.”

Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover and Deal, said she would be amongst those lighting a candle in memory of Julia tonight.

In a statement, she posted on Facebook alongside the hashtag #justiceforjulia she said: “I have been shocked and saddened about the death of Julia James.

“Let’s join together at 7pm tonight to light a candle for Julia – wife, mother grandmother, PCSO, and a popular pillar of our community.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with Julia’s family and friends at this difficult time, one week on since her death.”

Police forensic officers near the scene where the PCOS's body was found
Police forensic officers near the scene where the PCOS’s body was found

She went on to reiterate advice given by police to residents that they should tell family and friends where they’re going and how long they will be before leaving the house.

She said: “Julia’s killer has not yet been found. Chief Inspector Dan Carter of Kent Police has issued advice to remain cautious, vigilant and aware of surroundings when out and about.

“It is vital that this advice is heeded – so keep your phone on you and charged, plan your route, tell someone else where you are going and how long you will be.

“If anyone has any information, they must contact Kent Police.”

Retail manager Robert Macdiamid, 37, said he and his wife would be paying their respects to Julia on the doorstep of their home in nearby Wingham.

He said: “We’ll be joining in with the tributes. It’s obviously very sad.

“My wife works for the police and she knew Julia because she used to work in Canterbury with her.

A lit candle marks one week since the death of PCSO Julia James
A lit candle marks one week since the death of PCSO Julia James

“People at that she was a nice lady but she really was. We only moved here two weeks and it has changed how we think about the area.

“I’m big enough to protect myself so I’m not too concerned. And she is trained to deal with situations and defend herself because of her police work, but we’ve said don’t go anywhere on your own for the time being.

“I lived in South London for 32 years and it’s like something you’d expect there but not in this part of the world.

“I hope they catch whoever it is soon.”

Some people have also paid tribute to the murdered PCSO on social media, sharing photos of candles outside their homes or by their windows to remember her.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also paid tribute to the woman as he tweeted: “Tonight we remember PCSO Julia James. My thoughts are with her friends and family.”

A murder inquiry has been launched
A murder inquiry has been launched

Jeannie Powell, 59, who moved down to Aylesham from London four years ago, said she no longer felt safe walking in the countryside that she had swapped city living for.

She said: “I shall join in the tributes tonight but I shall put something in the widow because it’s quite windy today.

“I’ve only lived here four years but I will do it out of respect.

“I used to walk down in the woods and countryside on my own but I would now stay on the main roads where there’s people.

“It’s scary. I see lots of people jogging alone but I would be having second thoughts now if I were them.

“My neighbours have a dog and they’re only going on walks with it together now.

“I think it’s a good idea the dog walking group is trying to pair people up but it doesn’t help you if you work unsociable hours.

“I’m glad there is a lot of police around here since it happened. It makes me feel a lot better going out.”



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