Did serial killer bludgeon PCSO Julia James to death? Savage slaying might have links to Lin Russell murder, says QC campaigning for man who claims he was wrongly convicted of the 1996 crime
- Julia James, 53, was found battered to death beside a woodland path in Kent
- Scene was just two miles from that of the notorious Chillenden hammer murders
- Barrister campaigning to clear Michael Stone of that crime has claimed real killer is still at large and may have killed Ms James
A serial killer may have murdered the police support officer found dead last week, a leading barrister claimed yesterday.
Julia James, 53, was discovered battered to death beside a woodland path in Kent after taking her terrier for a walk.
The scene was just two miles from that of the notorious Chillenden hammer murders a quarter of a century ago.
The barrister campaigning to clear Michael Stone of that crime has told police the ‘real killer’ may still be at large and could have struck again.
Julia James, a serving PCSO for Kent Police for 15 years, was discovered battered to death beside a woodland path in Kent after taking her terrier for a walk
Stone, 61, has been unsuccessful in appeals against his conviction for the murders of Lin Russell, 45, and her daughter Megan, six, in 1996.
Mark McDonald QC said: ‘There are some concerning questions here. Reports have talked about police in the area looking for a reported attempted dognapper in his 60s in a BMW.
‘He would have been in his 30s at the time of the Chillenden murders. There were a number of alternative suspects – one of which had really poor alibi evidence. But the police dropped everything when they focused on Stone. And they got the wrong man.
‘I’ve reached out to Kent Police through their hotline, and said I’ve got all the material on alternative suspects from Chillenden.
The scene was just two miles from that of the notorious Chillenden hammer murders of Lin Russell and her daughter Megan (pictured) a quarter of a century ago. The barrister campaigning to clear Michael Stone of that crime has told police the ‘real killer’ may still be at large and could have struck again
The case has chilling echoes of one of Britain’s most notorious murder cases, which took place in the neighbouring village of Chillenden, Kent, 25 years ago, when Dr Lin Russell, 45, and her daughter Megan, six, were bludgeoned to death with a hammer as they walked their family dog
‘There were five alternative suspects. It’s remarkably similar. I haven’t heard back from them yet, but I’ve got everything – names, addresses, dates of birth.’
Mr McDonald said stranger murders were rare, adding: ‘Being bashed to death over the head with a blunt-force object is unusual – and that’s the same as with Lin Russell and her daughter.
‘They were all bashed around the head with a blunt-force instrument, two miles away from where female PCSO Julia James was killed. And if I’m right, and Michael Stone is innocent, the real murderer is out there, and he’s struck again.
‘I don’t want to get too involved in the investigation but I have the reports on those suspects on my computer and I can give them to the police now.’
Detectives pointed out that the Chillenden case is officially solved, with Stone in jail – but said they would not be ‘blinkered’ about any related leads
The killings 25 years apart have some similarities. Both involved a middle-aged dog-walker being killed in daylight on a wooded path in the same small area of rural Kent.
In the Chillenden case, Mrs Russell’s youngest daughter Josie, then nine, took years to recover from the injuries suffered in the attack. Mrs James lived with her hypnotherapist husband Paul, 57, a couple of hundred yards from where her body was found last Tuesday in Snowdown, near Canterbury.
The grandmother worked in a police domestic violence unit and detectives have not ruled out the murder being linked to her official role.
Mr McDonald said previous suggestions that serial killer Levi Bellfield had carried out the Chillenden murders could still be true – but insisted the alternative suspects for that crime should still be looked at in the latest investigation.
Officers yesterday used leaflets to warn worried Snowdown residents to ‘remain cautious, vigilant and aware of your surroundings out and about, keep your phone on you and charged, and plan your route and tell someone where you are going’.
Detectives pointed out that the Chillenden case is officially solved, with Stone in jail – but said they would not be ‘blinkered’ about any related leads.
As part of their investigation they are going door to door seeking CCTV footage.
Last night Mrs James’s daughter went on social media to thank locals assisting the murder inquiry. Bethan Coles wrote ‘Thank you all for your help’ – with a love heart emoji.
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