'I’m double checking the locks': Community shaken up by murder of popular PCSO Julia James

By ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia

Half a mile from where the body of Police Community Support Officer Julia James was found a week ago in Kent, lies the centre of the village of Aylesham.

At its heart is a square of green grass, well tended, with blossom trees and a hedge all the way around.

It is an area where a few residents can be seen sitting on the benches, talking, dogs on leads, exchanging views about life.

It has now become the focal point of this community’s grief. A loss felt by all you speak to.

Julia James was more than a Community Support Officer to people here. She was a respected, upstanding member of their community who helped them feel safe.

To people here, her death has been shocking, deeply unsettling and distressing.

PCSO Julia James Credit: Kent Police/PA

One woman who spoke to ITV News but did not want to be named said Ms James' death has left her fearing for her own safety.

“This incident has made me really scared, as I live alone. I don’t have anyone to turn to if there were any issues.

"I find I’m double checking the locks on my door at night. A few other women that live near me are in the same position.”

She was not alone. A mother of three who also wanted to remain anonymous told us: “I’ve lived here all my life... it has put me on edge.

"I have a daughter in secondary and I tell her to come straight home from school now because you just don’t know who is about. It’s OK when there’s police about at the moment, but what about when they go?”

A few police officers can be seen in the village centre, and patrols cars are dotted around the area.

But by far the biggest presence is at some woodlands nearby, where police search teams are continuing to scour the area, and where PCSO James’ body was found on a footpath, on the edge of Ackholt Wood.

She had been walking her dog, Toby. He was by her side when her body was discovered. She had severe head injuries.

Officers from the National Crime Agency have been providing advice to Kent Police on specialist forensic search techniques.

Police activity in a field close to where the body of PCSO Julia James was found Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

But a week on, there have been no arrests and so far, it appears, no motive. Road checks have been carried out to speak to possible witnesses who may not have come forward.

There is a concern this was a random attack and police have urged those living nearby to keep their phones charged and let someone know where they’re going when they go out.

One man who wanted to remain anonymous told us: “This is the first time in several years that something like this has happened in our community.

"We’ve never had such a police presence before. For me, it hasn’t changed things though. I’m still trying to go on as I normally would. I’m still leaving my door unlocked. I just hope they catch whoever is responsible and bring justice to the family.”