Neighbours of murdered PCSO Julia James have been warned to inform someone before leaving home and pre-plan their walking routes while police search for her killer.
Officers, who also said residents should keep their phones charged, issued the advice after 53-year-old Ms James’ body was found last Tuesday on the edge of Akholt Wood close to the hamlet of Snowdown, near Canterbury, in Kent – just a few hundred yards from her home.
It was later revealed by detectives that the mother of two died as a result of severe head injuries, likely sustained after she was bludgeoned to death with a blunt object.
Police are in the process of trying to establish whether Ms James’ murder was a random act of violence or one of revenge linked to her work, which specialised in domestic violence in Canterbury.
Initial suspicions it could have been a robbery gone wrong were thrown out when officers discovered all of Ms James’ possessions at the scene, senior officers said last week.
At a press conference on Friday, Kent Police Asst Ch Const Tom Richards declined to rule out that she was killed by a stranger, someone she came across during her work, someone trying to steal her dog, or as part of a sexual assault.
The warning issued by Kent Police, which was distributed door to door in the area by fellow PCSOs, and shared on social media, urged locals to “remain cautious, vigilant and aware of your surroundings when you are out and about”.
It also advised anyone leaving their house to let someone know how long they plan to be gone.
A large police presence remained in the nearby village of Aylesham on Tuesday, where officers have been going door to door asking residents to hand over any CCTV footage they might have.
Some 30 marked and unmarked police vehicles were seen parked on Aylesham Road as officers hunt for the murder weapon.
A special blue tent in the area’s Market Square was also erected for worried residents to speak to officers about their concerns.
Dover Chief Inspector Dan Carter of Kent Police said in a message to locals that “some of the very best detectives in the land” are trying to catch the killer.
“As your district commander, I am truly shocked and saddened by the death of PCSO Julia James,” he told them.
“Julia was well liked and highly respected by her colleagues and members of the public and we are all devastated by what has happened.
“She will be fondly remembered and missed by all – my thoughts go out to Julia’s family and friends and to each and every one of you within the community at this difficult time.”
Kent Police have appealed for people to come forward to report anything suspicious or strange they may have witnessed on 26 and 27 April.
Meanwhile, Ms James’ daughter has asked the nation to pay tribute to her mother on Tuesday evening by leaving candles on their doorsteps.
It will mark a week since the police community support officer’s body was found.