21-year-old man pleads not guilty to murder of police support officer

A 21-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to the murder of a police community support worker who was killed while walking his dog.

Julia James, 53, was found dead of head injuries in Akholt Wood, near her home in Snowdown, Kent, in April with her dog Jack Russell Toby by her side.

Her death sparked a wave of grief in the community she served for many years.

Appearing at Maidstone Crown Court via video link, Callum Wheeler, of Aylesham, denied the murder of Ms James.

The court heard that his trial – previously set for November 29 – would be postponed and a new date set as soon as possible.

Wheeler was remanded in custody before a new hearing next month.

The discovery of Ms James’ body on April 27 sparked a broad murder investigation, with dozens of police officers from across the country enlisted to sweep fields and woods.

Her dog was then used as part of a police reenactment as detectives called for witnesses.

Ms James’ family praised her as “fiercely loyal” and as someone who “loved with all her heart”.

In a tribute made public by the police, they said: “His loss will be felt by us every moment of every day. We will miss her so much.

“As a family we are trying to figure out how we are going to navigate our lives without her, it seems like an impossible task.”