Julia James: Police considering ‘all possible motives’ in murder of PCSO as public warned to be ‘vigilant’

Police investigating the murder of an off-duty community support officer in Kent woodland have urged residents to be "cautious and aware".

Julia James was walking her dog in in Akholt Wood earlier this week when she was found dead with "significant head injuries".

At a news conference close to the scene on Friday, Kent Police Assistant Chief Constable Tom Richards said that while hundreds of officers were working on the investigation into her death there were currently no "clear suspects and no known motive".

He said the public should be "cautious and aware" and added: "I do understand local residents are concerned – that is completely natural.

"But, I do not at this stage have an identified suspect and do not know what the motive is for this attack."

However, Mr Richards stressed that while it was an "awful incident" it was also "incredibly rare".

He said: "Of course it’s natural that people will be concerned.

"People should be aware but should continue with their lives."

He said officers were not suggesting women – or anyone else – should stay at home, but they should be "cautious, vigilant and aware of their surroundings and report anything of concern".

He paid tribute to Ms James, who had been working as a PCSO with Kent Police since 2008, latterly specialising in domestic abuse investigations.

He said: "She was a hugely devoted, passionate individual who was completely committed to serving the people of Kent – she will be missed."

He said specialist officers had been working with Ms James’ family who had found her death "incredibly difficult and challenging," as had her colleagues.

"I have had to consider the welfare of staff as it is particularly challenging for those working on the case who knew her professionally or socially," Mr Richards said.

"We are working very carefully to make sure the teams are fully supported in terms of the psychological impact of the circumstances."

The assistant chief constable added he was "not able to say either way" if the attack was sexually motivated, and that officers were "keeping unblinkered and very open minds about the motive".

He added she had died from significant injuries, following "blunt trauma to the head" but would not comment on any potential murder weapon.

The death was originally viewed as "suspicious" but Kent Police has since confirmed it is being treated as murder.

In a statement released by Kent Police on Friday afternoon, Ms James’ family said: "There are no words to adequately describe the void left in our lives by the death of our mum.

‘She was so much to so many people; a wife, mother, daughter, nanny, sister and a friend.

"Mum was fiercely loyal, she loved with her whole heart and nothing was too much trouble for the people she cared about."

They added: "Her loss will be felt by us every moment of every day. She will be so sorely missed. As a family we are trying to understand how we will navigate our lives without her, it seems an impossible task."

Anyone with information about the incident is urged to contact Kent Police or Crimestoppers.

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