Callum Wheeler found guilty of murdering PCSO Julia James while she was walking dog

Julia James' family wept as the jury's guilty verdict was handed to Callum Wheeler, reports ITV News Reporter Sangita Lal

A man has been found guilty of the murder of PCSO Julia James in woodland in Kent.

Callum Wheeler, 22, admitted killing the 53-year-old, but denied murder, but today (16 May) a jury at Canterbury Crown Court took just over hour to reach a unanimous verdict of guilty.

Julia James, 53, was found dead with head injuries in Akholt Wood, close to her home in Snowdown, Kent on April 27 last year.

The off-duty police community support officer had been walking her Jack Russell dog Toby - he was found by her side.

The court heard how Callum 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.

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

The jury of eight women and four men took less than one hour and 10 minutes to find Callum Wheeler guilty of murder. Wheeler did not react when the guilty verdict was delivered.

When asked to stand to hear the verdict, Wheeler did not stand himself but was instead held up by members of staff in the dock. He did not walk into the dock but was instead carried in.

Sentencing has been adjourned.

Detective Superintendent Gavin Moss, who led the hunt to find Mrs James' killer, said the case was particularly poignant for the force. He said: "The death of Julia had real ramifications throughout the whole organisation, because she was one of our own.

"What needed to happen was that justice needed to prevail, and we needed to do what we did to catch Callum Wheeler, who was a particularly dangerous individual.

"He caused her catastrophic injuries."

Martin Yale, senior crown advocate from the Crown Prosecution said: "This is an extremely tragic case, and it's something that simply shouldn't have happened.

"Women should be free to walk their dog in the middle of the day, without fear of this sort of thing happening. It's clearly a tragic case. And our condolences go to Julia's family, the local community, and Kent Police of which she was an employee.

"We just hope that the result in this case can provide some degree of solace to those individuals."