Smart watch ‘captured PCSO’s final moments as she saw killer in woods’

Canterbury Crown Court heard that Callum Wheeler, from Aylesham in Kent, accepts that he killed Julia James, but denies murder.

Margaret Davis
Monday 09 May 2022 17:16
Callum Wheeler is on trial for murder (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
Callum Wheeler is on trial for murder (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

A smart watch worn by a police community support officer in her final moments captured a spike in her heart rate as she spotted her killer in woodland and tried to flee, a jury has heard.

The Apple watch belonging to Julia James showed that her heart rate had gone from 97 up to 145 within seconds at the point it is said she spotted Callum Wheeler in Ackholt Wood, Kent on April 27 last year.

Mrs James, 53, had been out walking her Jack Russell dog, Toby, when she was chased and hit over the head with a rail jack, jurors at Canterbury Crown Court were told.

Wheeler, 22, from Aylesham in Kent, admits killing her but denies murder.

Julia James died from head injuries (Kent Police/PA)

Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC told the court that Mrs James had seen Wheeler around Ackholt Wood, near her home in the hamlet of Snowdown in Kent, in the months before she died, and described him to her husband Paul as “a really weird dude”.

On the day that she died, Mrs James saw Wheeler in the same place she had before.

Ms Morgan said: “The defendant was in that same place that Paul James and Julia James had seen him before, and it was at that point that Julia James’s heart rate surged.

“She took a sudden detour off the path that goes through the wooded area.

“She began to move along the edge of the field.”

The prosecutor went on: “She has run out of the wood, doubtless to try to escape her attacker, and has got as far as she could along the path.”

Mrs James then fell, either from a first blow to the head or by tripping, the court heard, and was subjected to a “violent and sustained blunt force trauma assault to the head”.

Ms Morgan said: “Given the serious nature of the violent injuries to her head which caused her skull to cave in, the majority of these injuries must have been inflicted when she was face down on the ground with her hood up.”

The court heard that she died “extremely rapidly” from the injuries.

The prosecution allege that Mrs James was killed with a metal railway jack which, they say, was later found in the defendant’s bedroom.

Ms Morgan went through forensic evidence found on the jack and Julia James’ clothing, including Wheeler’s DNA that was found on her boots, jacket and white vest that she was wearing underneath a jumper.

The prosecutor said that when officers went to arrest him at his home in Aylesham, he barricaded himself in his bedroom and made “clear denials”, but that he later made comments like “sometimes I do things I cannot control”.

She also told jurors that in the days before his arrest Wheeler walked around the local area with a bag believed to contain the alleged murder weapon, avoided police, and kept a check on a cordon around the scene of Ms James’ killing.

The jury was told that, while Wheeler denies murder, the prosecution claims that he intended to kill her or at least cause her really serious harm.

Ms Morgan told the court: “He waited for Julia James or another vulnerable female to be in those woods. Waited to ambush her. He chased her down.

“She ran, desperate to get away from her attacker. Unable to outrun him, caught by surprise wearing wellington boots, he struck her.

“She fell to the ground, she broke her wrist.

“Then, when she was face down on the ground, he struck her again and again. She had no chance of survival.

“When he hit her in that way repeatedly, using that weapon, he knew that and he intended it.”

Several members of Mrs James’s family attended court to hear the prosecution open the case.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in