The pet dog of a PCSO who was found dead had stayed with her body after she died, it has been claimed.
Kent Police confirmed this afternoon the death of Julia James, 53, is being treated as murder.
Detectives are continuing to establish the circumstances after her body was found on a woodland path in Snowdown on Tuesday – though no arrests have been made.
Mrs James is understood to have been working from home and out walking her white Jack Russell mongrel when she died.
Neighbour Sean Simmonds, 57, said: “The police have been doing door to door knocks. They told us the dog stayed with her. They found the dog with her.”
Officers were called shortly after 4pm on Tuesday to Akholt Wood in the Aylesham Road area of Snowdown where Mrs James’ body was found.
Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted: “So saddened to hear of the death of Kent Police. PCSO Julia James. I offer my sincere condolences to Julia’s friends, family and colleagues at this awful time.”
Assistant Chief Constable of Kent Police Tom Richards said: “Officers are carrying out a number of lines of inquiry to establish the circumstances and people in the Snowdown area will see an increased police presence as a result.
“It saddens me to confirm that the victim was a serving PCSO for Kent Police and while there is a full and thorough investigation under way our thoughts also remain with her family, friends and colleagues.
“It is vitally important that anyone who was in the area on Monday and Tuesday who may have seen something suspicious gets in touch with us.
“We’re particularly keen to speak to those who regularly visit the area who may have seen something out of place and those who drove by who have dashcam footage.
“We would advise people in the area to remain vigilant until the full circumstances of the death are established.”
Officers are keen to speak to anyone who was in the area on Monday and Tuesday April 26-27 who may have seen something unusual or suspicious.
They are urged to contact Kent Police on 0800 0514 526.
Anyone with video footage can submit it online https://mipp.police.uk/operation/4601020121F07-PO1