A PCSO mum who was found dead in a Kent woodland was murdered, cops revealed today.
The body of Julia James, 53, was tragically discovered in Akholt Wood in Snowdown, near Dover – with her loyal dog staying with her body until she was found, neighbours claimed.
Forensic officer today flooded the scene where the mother's body had been found as neighbours paid tribute to the "bubbly" woman who dreamed of becoming a cop.
Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate has now launched a murder investigation.
Neighbours described their horror after the discovery yesterday afternoon.
Leah Southwell, 18, said: “She was such a happy woman.
"She was out walking her dogs at the time of the incident.
"She was so happy. So bubbly, if you were having a bad day she’d be there smiling at you and trying to make you laugh.
She was such a happy woman. She was so happy and bubbly."
"They are the best neighbours you can have."
Locals said she regularly walked her Jack Russell terrier dog along the secluded country footpaths.
Another neighbour broke down in tears when he paid tribute to grandmother Julia.
He said: “It’s heartbreaking – absolutely tragic. I can’t believe it. She was a loving mum and the pillar of the community.
“This is devastating. She was a lovely woman. A terrific part of the community.
“It was a great comfort having a PCSO there. They’re a lovely family.”
The Major Incident Public Portal, which witnesses can use to submit potentially vital information, described it as a 'murder' codenamed Operation Sark.
But Kent Police insisted they were treating the tragedy as a suspicious death.
Sean Simmonds, 57, a paramedic who lives on Mrs James' street said he only saw her walking her Jack Russell a few days ago.
He said: “I can’t believe it. She usually walks her dogs in the fields, a little Jack Russell. That hasn’t been seen either.
“Yesterday a chap told me that there were lots of police down the road.
“Julia's lovely. She’s with the domestic violence unit.
“I see her walking the dog and usually have a chat with her. They had two dogs but one died."
Mrs James had two grown up children – a daughter who also works for the police and a 23-year-old son.
Officers were seen guarding a field alongside Aylesham Road while several more fields were also sealed off with one officer saying it was a "very big crime scene".
An aerial image from the scene appears to show a police tent set up next to floodlights in a nearby field.
Police have not revealed how the popular officer died but a post mortem is due to be held to establish the exact cause of death.
Kent Police also refused to say if Mrs James, who is believed to have served in the domestic violence unit, was on duty or off duty when she died.
Mrs James, who lived in Aylesham, Kent, became a PCSO in 2007.
Before joining the force, she worked for Kent County Council in a learning resource centre but wanted to get out and about more.
After becoming a PCSO for Tenterden in 2013, she said: "I am a people person and love being in the community. The people in Tenterden are very friendly."
A Kent Police spokesman said: "Officers were called shortly after 4pm on Tuesday 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.
Officers are keen to speak to anyone who was in the area on Monday 26 and Tuesday 27 April who may have seen something unusual or suspicious."
Dozens of police cars were seen heading to the scene this morning. No arrests have been made at this time.
The victim is a serving Kent Police PCSO Julia James."
Assistant Chief Constable of Kent Police Tom Richards said: "Officers are carrying out a number of lines of enquiry to establish the circumstances and people in the Snowdown area will see an increased police presence as a result.
"It saddens me to confirm that the victim was a serving PCSO for Kent Police and whilst there is a full and thorough investigation underway our thoughts also remain with her family, friends and colleagues.
"It is vitally important that anyone who was in the area on Monday and Tuesday who may have seen something suspicious gets in touch with us.
"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 anyone in the area to remain vigilant until the full circumstances of the death are established."
A spokesman for the Kent Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers within the constabulary, said: "Very sad news today as Kent Police confirms the death of PCSO Julia James.
"The thoughts of Kent Police Federation and our members are with Julia’s family, friends and close colleagues at this sad and difficult time. "
Officers are keen to speak to anyone in the area on Monday or Tuesday who may have seen something unusual or suspicious.
Anyone with information should call 0800 0514526 or can submit video footage online.
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