Neighbour of murdered PCSO fears chilling similarities to 1996 killings three miles away

A neighbour who lives close to the scene where PCSO Julia James was killed in Kent has voiced fears of similarities with the notorious Chillenden murders in 1996.

Police last night confirmed that a murder probe had been opened after the 53-year-old’s body was discovered in woodland in the village of Snowdown on Monday.

Mum-of-two Julia is believed to have been walking her dog near her home when the tragedy unfolded.

Forensic officers remained at the scene today as the investigation continues.

One woman whose house backs onto the fields where Julia was found dead fears the potential similarities between the killings of Lin and Megan Russell in nearby Chillenden in 1996.

The neighbour, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “It’s just too close to home. It’s worrying.

“You associate it with what happened in Chillenden. It makes you think have we got someone going around killing people in the woods? You just don’t know do you.

“It’s such a wide remote area so presumably whoever has done this awful thing knew the area and knows all the routes out.

“We all walk over there. It’s a very popular path and a beautiful woods full of wildlife. Then suddenly this shocking tragedy. People are afraid now.”

Lin Russell, 45, and her children Megan, 6, and Josie, 9, were attacked by a stranger who demanded money while they walked home from the school with their family dog at around 4pm on Tuesday, July 9, 1996.

Lin, a doctor, was bludgeoned her to death, while both young girls were brutally attacked and left for dead.

When their three bodies were discovered later that day, the head injuries looked so bad that Lin’s husband and the girls’ father, Dr Shaun Russell, was initially told they had all died.

Remarkably, Josie was still alive, albeit barely with a very faint pulse.

attack: “This is the most horrific and terrible murder I have had the misfortune to come across in my 23 years as a police officer.”

Ex-drug addict Michael Stone was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001 for two counts of murder and one for attempted murder.

Stone’s original conviction was actually overturned on appeal but he was found guilty in his second trial, based on the evidence of another inmate.

He also appealed in 2004 but it failed.

relation to the death of Julia.

“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,” they added.

“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.”

Officers were called to Snowdown near Aylesham, Kent at around 4pm on Tuesday.