Trial of man accused of murdering PCSO Julia James adjourned

Julia James was attacked while she was out for a walk in April last year (Family Handout/PA) Credit: PA Media

The trial of the man accused of murdering police community support officer Julia James has been adjourned until Monday.

Callum Wheeler, 22, is charged with murdering the mother of two as she was out for a walk near Ackholt Wood, close to her home in the hamlet of Snowdown, Kent, on April 27 last year.

The 53-year-old had been walking her Jack Russell dog Toby while she was off duty before she was found dead with head injuries.

Wheeler, from Aylesham in Kent, admits killing her but denies murder, and has been on trial at Canterbury Crown Court since the beginning of the week.

Callum Wheeler walking near Pond Lane, Aylesham, carrying what prosecutors claim was the weapon he used to kill Julia James. Credit: Gavin Tucker/PA

On Friday, the fifth day of his trial, judge Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb told the jury that “for good reason” the next hearing would be on Monday, but did not provide any further detail.

She said: “You may have noticed that the defendant is not in court today.”

She added: “I am satisfied that for good reason we should not go any further with the trial today.”

The judge asked them to return on Monday at 11am.

Wheeler was seen roaming around the countryside with a weapon the day before Mrs James died, and in the days after as hundreds of police officers scoured the area for clues, his trial has heard.

Detectives used vital data from her Apple watch to find out where she had walked and when, and pinpoint where she was attacked.

Data showed that her heart rate and walking pace spiked at the point it is believed she spotted Wheeler in the woodland, and changed her route home in a bid to escape.

She had seen him in the same location before, and had described him to her husband Paul as “a really weird dude”.

Prosecutors say Wheeler, who lived in nearby Aylesham, beat her to death and walked away.

A court sketch of Callum Wheeler at Canterbury Crown Court Credit: Elizabeth Cook/PA

Officers went to arrest Wheeler at his home after a member of the public identified him in a photograph with an object, which prosecutors say was his murder weapon – a 97cm-long cylindrical bar used to lift train tracks.

Police seized the railway jack from his bedroom, and forensic experts later found Mrs James’ DNA on the tool.

There was no known connection to his victim and Wheeler told police he did not know her.

On Thursday, defence barrister Oliver Blunt QC told the jury there would be no evidence on behalf of his client.

The jury heard that there were no signs of “sustained or violent” sexual attack, according to the pathologist who carried out a post-mortem examination on Mrs James, though it was not completely ruled out.