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‘Sick and twisted’ killer of PCSO Julia James jailed for at least 37 years

Callum Wheeler has been jailed (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
Callum Wheeler has been jailed (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

The “sick and twisted” murderer of PCSO Julia James has been jailed for at least 37 years for the “brutal and vicious” sexually motivated attack.

The much-loved grandmother and mother-of-two, 53, was ambushed by Callum Wheeler, 22, in Ackholt Wood, near her home in Snowdown, Kent, as she walked her Jack Russell called Toby.

Wheeler had previously roamed the countryside carrying the large metal bar he used to beat her to death on the afternoon of April 27 last year.

Wheeler, who was found guilty of murder in May, was carried into the Canterbury Crown Court dock on Friday, wearing handcuffs, by staff from Broadmoor high security psychiatric hospital, in Berkshire, where he has been held.

He was jailed for life with a minimum term of 37 years on Friday by Mr Justice Wall, who told him: “The attack you launched on her was brutal and vicious.”

Callum Wheeler
Callum Wheeler was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court (Kent Police/PA)

“Your actions have not just served to end the one life prematurely but have also destroyed the lives of the whole of her family,” said the judge.

“I am drawn on the evidence to the obvious conclusion that this was a not a spur of the moment aberration by you.

“Rather, it was an attack which was planned and thought through in advance.”

He added: “You were there looking for a lone female victim and you were sexually motivated to do so.”

Wheeler showed no emotion as he was escorted down to the cells in front of his victim’s family, including her widower Paul James, daughter Bethan Coles and son Patrick Davis.

Julia James’ son Patrick Davies and daughter Bethan Coles
Julia James’ son Patrick Davies and daughter Bethan Coles (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Ms Coles said outside court: “I think we are pleased with 37 years, although clearly it never brings my Mum back.

“What it does do is keep women safe from harm and what he may do in the future.”

Wheeler earlier sat with his head bowed as the family read their emotional victim impact statements, telling him his actions had given them a “life sentence”.

Mr Davis said: “Mum finally found peace and happiness and that was snatched from her within a blink of an eye for one sick, twisted individual’s strange satisfactions.

“He should never see the light of day again. Why should he?

“My mother only wanted to walk her dog but instead had her life brutally ended by this disgusting creature.

“I will not refer to him as a human being because in my eyes he isn’t.”

Mrs James’ widower repeatedly broke down in tears as he told how “my life was finally complete when I married my soulmate” but “my hopes and dreams were taken”.

“I actually felt I died too,” he added.

Wheeler was described by prosecutor Alison Morgan QC as a “highly sexualised” prolific user of internet pornography, who had searched for words including “raped” just two days before the attack.

Callum Wheeler court case
Paul James speaks outside Canterbury Crown Court in Kent after the verdict in May (Gareth Fuller/PA)

She said Wheeler planned to target a lone woman and was “lying in wait in bushes” for “highly respected PCSO” Mrs James, who made a “desperate attempt to run away”.

Data from her Apple watch showed that her heart rate and walking pace spiked at the point it is believed she spotted Wheeler in the woodland, and changed her route home in a bid to escape.

She suffered “catastrophic injuries”, described by a pathologist as the worst he had ever seen, when Wheeler inflicted “multiple blows to her head” with a railway jack – a tool used to lift train tracks, Ms Morgan said.

She said DNA found on the breast area of Mrs James’ white top indicated touching that “must have been sexual in nature”.

“This was a murder involving sexual conduct,” Ms Morgan added.

Wheeler had no connection to his victim but prosecutors said he targeted her when she became vulnerable because she was not close to any other dog walkers.

When arrested, he told police “sometimes I do things that I cannot control” and while in custody said “you can’t go into the woods and expect to be safe”.

He also said that if he was released he would return to the woodland to rape and kill women, and that Mrs James had deserved to die.

Callum Wheeler court case
Paul James was the husband of PCSO Julia James (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The judge said: “It was an attack which in combination with other similar offences reported in the press in the recent past has caused understandable fear and concern among members of the public who may find themselves in a similar vulnerable position to that which Mrs James found herself that day.”

Speaking outside court, Kent Police Detective Superintendent Gavin Moss said: “Callum Wheeler has demonstrated that he is an incredibly dangerous individual reflected by his actions that he subjected my colleague, Julia James, to the most horrific of injuries.

“I am reassured, and so should the public be, that Callum Wheeler is now off the streets for a significant period of time.”

Senior Crown Prosecutor Matt Capes, from CPS South East, said: “Everyone should be able to walk through streets and the countryside safely without fear of harm.

“Violence against women and girls is an abhorrent blight on our society that we are determined to eradicate.

“Women like Julia James and their families deserve justice.”