Police officer Julia James' killer was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum sentence of 37 years.

Killer Callum Wheeler who ‘lay in wait in bushes’ to kill PCSO Julia James is jailed | UK News

Police officer Julia James’ killer was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum sentence of 37 years.

Callum Wheeler, 22, was convicted of her murder at Canterbury Crown Court in May, with the jury taking just over an hour to reach its verdict.

Ms James was off duty on the afternoon of April 27 last year when she was killed by Wheeler, who attacked her with a railroad jack, a tool used to raise railroad tracks, resulting in “catastrophic injuries”.

The incident happened while she was walking her dog in fields and woods near her home in Snowdown, Kent.

Her husband Paul James collapsed while speaking in court.

He said he was “massively relieved” that Wheeler could be behind bars for so long and not harm another woman.

“If that was Julia’s sacrifice – to save other people – then we’re happy,” he said.

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Julia James’ family pays tribute to her

Mr James also issued a statement in court, saying: “My life was finally complete when I married my soul mate.”

When his wife was murdered, “my hopes and dreams were taken away,” he said. “I actually felt like I died too.”

Ms James’ daughter, Bethan Coles, said the family will “live with it every day” and it was a “life sentence” for her.

Wheeler had no connection to Ms James, 53, who had two children, and offered no explanation for beating her to death when questioned by police.

Mrs James herself had seen Wheeler at Ackholt Wood three times in the months before her death.

The day before Ms James was killed, he was seen by witnesses with guns roaming the countryside.

Alison Morgan QC, representing prosecutors, said Ms James was subjected to a “brutal and fatal attack” when she fell to the ground while fleeing her attacker, adding: “This was a murder involving sexual conduct.”

Undated handout photo issued by the CPS of a photo taken by Game Warden Gavin Tucker of Callum Wheeler in a field near Ackholt Wood.  Wheeler, 22, appears at Canterbury Crown Court, where he is charged with the murder of police officer Julia James.  PCSO, 53, was found dead on April 27 in Akholt Wood, near her home in Snowdown, Kent.  Issue date: Wednesday 11 May 2022.
Callum Wheeler in a field near Ackholt Wood. Image: CPS

Wheeler told officers, “Sometimes I do things I can’t control” and “You can’t go into the woods and expect to be safe.”

Ms Morgan added that the killer was “lurking in bushes on the lookout” for “respected” Ms James, who was making a “desperate attempt to escape”.

He told a member of the police staff that he was going back to the forest and would rape and kill a woman and that Mrs James deserved death.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 37 years by Mr Justice Wall, who told him: “The attack you perpetrated on her was brutal and vicious.”

The judge said: “It was an attack which, combined with other similar offenses that have received recent press coverage, has caused understandable fear and concern among members of the public who may be in a similarly vulnerable position like Mrs James herself that day.”

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