Tributes have been left for a murdered police community support officer who was described by one of those who laid down flowers as “the kindest person I ever met”.
Detectives are investigating the killing of Julia James, who was last seen taking her dog for a walk in a quiet hamlet in south-east England and found with head injuries.
Parts of Snowdown, near Dover in Kent, remain cordoned off as the investigation continues, but police have yet to make any arrests over the 53-year-old’s killing.
The home secretary, Priti Patel, expressed her “sincere condolences” to James’s friends, family and colleagues”.
In a tweet on Wednesday evening, Patel said: “So saddened to hear of the death of Kent police PCSO Julia James.”
The hamlet, surrounded by fields, lies less than three miles from the village of Chillenden, where Lin Russell and her six-year-old daughter, Megan, were killed in a savage attack in July 1996 while walking their dogs.
Members of the public are being urged to come forward with any information as the police pursue “a number of lines of inquiry”.
On Thursday, forensic specialists wearing white suits were working outside a tent in a nearby field while uniformed officers patrolled the area. A white tent has been erected 200m from James’s home.
Her body was found in Akholt Wood on Tuesday, and she was last seen while out walking her dog, according to reports.
A touching floral tribute left at the scene paid tribute to her, saying: “Dearest Julia RIP … The kindest person I ever met. love Becki x.”
The murder came as a shock to the small community, with one resident, John Miller, 72, describing it as a “hell of a loss”. He told the PA news agency: “I can’t believe it’s true, to be honest. Everyone feels safe around here.”
Police are urging anyone with information to come forward.
The death was originally viewed as suspicious, but Kent police confirmed on Wednesday that it was being treated as murder.
Assistant chief constable Tom Richards said it was vitally important that anyone who was in the area on Monday and Tuesday who may have seen something suspicious comes forward.
“We’re particularly keen to speak to those who regularly visit the area who may have seen something out of place and those who drove by who have dashcam footage. We would advise people in the area to remain vigilant until the full circumstances of the death are established.”
People are encouraged to contact Kent Police on 0800 0514 526.
Anyone with video footage can submit it online.