Accused was ‘caught on camera with murder weapon’ the day after PCSO’s death

Prosecutors say the object was the railway jack that Callum Wheeler, 22, used to bludgeon Julia James to death.

Margaret Davis
Wednesday 11 May 2022 15:31
Julia James, 53, who was killed while walking her dog on April 27 last year (Kent Police/PA)
Julia James, 53, who was killed while walking her dog on April 27 last year (Kent Police/PA)

The man accused of murdering a police community support officer (PCSO) was photographed carrying his weapon in a bag the day after her death, a court was told.

Jurors at Canterbury Crown Court were shown an image of Callum Wheeler, 22, walking in fields near Aylesham, Kent, on April 28 last year.

In the picture, taken by gamekeeper Gavin Tucker who worked for nearby Nethersole Farm, Wheeler is carrying a blue holdall – with a long object poking out of it – covered with carrier bags.

Prosecutors say the object was the railway jack that Wheeler used to bludgeon 53-year-old Julia James.

Callum Wheeler walking near Pond Lane, Aylesham, Kent on April 28 last year, carrying what prosecutors claim was the weapon he used to kill PCSO Julia James the previous day. (Gavin Tucker/PA)

Dashcam footage from Mr Tucker’s vehicle captured a conversation between Mr Tucker and Wheeler as the defendant walked near to the junction of Pond Lane and Spinney Lane, close to Aylesham.

After being asked what he was doing, Wheeler said he was “lost or new to the area”, jurors heard.

Having seen the same man in the area the previous September, Mr Tucker told the court: “I knew he was telling lies.”

As Wheeler hurried away, the gamekeeper called police to report “a suspicious fella I have just approached and he’s running off.”

On September 21 2020, Mr Tucker twice challenged Wheeler while walking in fields near Ackholt Wood and told his colleague to keep an eye out for him, the court heard.

Mr Tucker said from the witness box: “It was just the way that he came across to me. Obviously seeing him twice within a short period of time, I didn’t like the way it was.”

Mrs James was off-duty and walking her jack russell Toby in fields and woodland near the back of her home in Snowdown, Kent, when she was attacked.

Wheeler admits killing her but denies murder.

A court sketch of Callum Wheeler at Canterbury Crown Court (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Police body-worn footage and stills of Mrs James’ body were shown to the court, as she lay face down on a path next to a farmer’s field with her hood up.

Several members of her family were in court as the footage was shown.

Jurors were also taken through details of sightings and CCTV images of Wheeler both before and after the alleged murder.

One witness, Angela Murphy, saw the defendant near her home in Aylesham between 12-1pm on April 27, the day Mrs James died.

Junior prosecution counsel Martin Yale told the court: “She had seen the defendant on a regular basis before.

“The defendant was standing at the end of the alley and making her feel uncomfortable.

“She noticed that he was wearing a hooded top with the hood up and holding a bag.

“He was stooped to the right side of his body.”

The map of the final route taken by Julia James, mapped using data from her smart watch (Kent Police/PA)

Earlier, the jury was also told that 10 days before the alleged murder, Wheeler made an abandoned 999 call to police.

When two PCSOs arrived at the home in Sunshine Corner Avenue, Aylesham, that he shared with his father, the court heard Wheeler called them “phoney”.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said: “The defendant asked how the police knew where he was. He said it must have been an accident and that he was joking.”

She added: “Callum Wheeler then began to say that the PCSOs were not real police and that they were phoney. He said he was not going to talk to them. He told them to get lost, go on their way and bother someone else.

“The defendant Callum Wheeler was laughing behind the door, saying it wasn’t even the real police.”

The trial was adjourned to Thursday.

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