Worried locals close to the scene where tragic PCSO Julia James was killed claim a man attempted to accost a dog walker days earlier.
People living in Snowdown, Kent, say they are scared to go out following the discovery of the 53-year-old’s body as a police manhunt continues.
A murder probe has been opened after popular mum-of-two Julia’s body was discovered in woodland on Monday afternoon.
Now The Sun reports that a man in a white Transit van approached a female dog walker in nearby Nonington, which is around a mile from Snowdown.
She was reportedly able to flee while the man was distracted.
Kent Police have not confirmed if detectives are linking the incidents, or whether they believe Julia was attacked by a stranger.
Charles Woodgate, a councillor representing Aylesham, Eythorne and Shepherdswell, told the Daily Mail: “People in the village are scared there was some crazy nutter in the woods who is now on the loose.
“They fear it was a stranger who killed Julia and hopefully the police catch them quickly.”
A neighbour who gave her name as Julia told The Sun that people in the village are “terrified”, adding: “There’s a lot of dog walkers in the area.
“It’s horrific. We’re aware there’s a report of another woman having been followed.”
Police remained at the scene where Julia’s body was discovered today.
Kent Police, the force the victim had worked for since 2007, has yet to confirm a cause of death, but last night said detectives believe she was murdered.
No arrests have been made, with people in the area urged to be “vigilant”.
A Kent Police spokesman said the force is urging witnesses to come forward.
Julia is believed to have been walking her dog near her home when the tragedy unfolded.
Julia’s ex Wayne Davis, 62, said he’d found out about the tragedy from their son Patrick, 23.
Mr Davis told The Sun he had asked Patrick if he knew what was happening in Snowdown, and said he had heard a woman had lost her life.
“Then a bit later, the phone rang and he said, ‘Dad, it’s Mum’. He was crying and crying,” he recounted.
Mr Davis described Julia as “the love of my life”, saying she was a “lovely woman”.
He said being a PCSO was “a way of life” for her, and added: “For something like that to happen, in the middle of nowhere – you don’t know whether it’s just random.”
In a statement police said: “Officers were called shortly after 4pm on Tuesday 27 April to Akholt Wood in the Aylesham Road area of Snowdown where the body of a woman, aged 53 was found.
“The victim is a serving Kent Police PCSO Julia James.
“No arrests have been made at this time but detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate are conducting enquiries to establish the circumstances and her death is being treated as suspicious.”
In response to reports of a man in a van approaching a woman before Tuesday’s killing, police said: ‘This is a live investigation and we continue to carry out enquiries to establish the circumstances.
“We will not be commenting or speculating on any individual lines of enquiry at this time.”
MP Natalie Elphicke praised PCSO Julia James and urged the public to be vigilant.
The Dover and Deal MP said on Twitter : “Julia James was a popular pillar of our community.
“My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.
“Kent Police have advised local people to be vigilant. It is important to follow that advice.
“Anyone with any information should contact @kent-police straight away.”
Flowers have been left for the local PCSO in nearby Aylesham, with a note from “the Guys in Blue” saying: “Your Duty is Done. Take it easy for now we will take it from here!”
forensic specialists wearing white suits were seen working outside a tent in a nearby field while uniformed officers patrolled the area.
The field has been an early focus of the murder inquiry, with the white tent erected just 200 metres from Ms James’ home.
Ms James, whose body was found in Akholt Wood earlier this week, was last seen while out walking her dog, according to reports.
Her nephew Karl James described his aunt as “just a lovely person”.
Speaking to 5 News, he said: “Obviously it’s been a real shock. I work away, but my wife is here – heavily pregnant – and with young kids, so she’s on edge at the moment too.
“So I’ve come home and just waiting for answers – that’s the worst bit really.”