Callum Wheeler: who is killer of PCSO Julia James, what is his background, and prison sentence explained
Wheeler murdered the police community support officer in Kent with a railway jack
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Callum Wheeler has been handed a life sentence for the murder of police community support officer Julia James.
Wheeler was convicted of the murder during a six-day trial in May and today appeared at Canterbury Crown Court to receive his sentence.
The attack has been branded “brutal and vicious” by prosecutors who sentenced Wheeler during his hearing.
What happened to Julia James?
Ms James was walking her dog in Akholt Wood near her home in Snowdown, Kent on Tuesday 27 April 2021.
Police traced Ms James’ smart watch, which showed that she had been walking along a footpath behind her home when the attack took place.
It also showed that she stopped at a spot she would normally stop at, before turning back and turning off her usual route.
The last registered location on her smart watch was the place her body was found. Her body was found by a member of the public at around 4pm on 27 April, with a post-mortem confirming that the 53-year-old had died of significant head injuries.
It was later found that her killer, Callum Wheeler, had used a 3kg railway jack to beat the PCSO to death.
How was Callum Wheeler caught?
Police launched an investigation into the death of the mother-of-two, reviewing 6,700 hours of dashcam footage as part of their inquiries.
It was a vital piece of dashcam footage which identifited 22-year-old Callum Wheeler as the main suspect in the case.
The footage itself was taken the day after the murder, but showed Wheeler carrying a long object in a blue bag.
The local resident who had caught the footage then saw the man walk into the woods where Ms James’ body was found.
After officers had identified the man in question as Wheeler, they began to piece together CCTV, dashcam and doorbell footage which placed him in the area at the time of Ms James’ death.
They charged Wheeler with her death on 10 May 2021, with Wheeler telling officers at the time of his arrest “sometimes I do things that I cannot control” and that “you can’t expect to go into the woods and expect to be safe”.
He added that he would return to the woods to rape and kill a woman and that Ms James has deserved to die.
How long has Callum Wheeler been sentenced to?
Wheeler’s trial at Canterbury Crown Court began on 10 May 2022 and lasted a total of six days.
The jury, consisting of eight women and five men, took less than one hour and ten minutes to find him guilty of murder.
Following his conviction, Kent Police chief constable Alan Pughsley said: “We may never know why Callum Wheeler went out and committed such a reprehensible crime that day but I hope that Julia’s family can take some comfort that he has been found responsible.
“Whilst I am pleased with this result and the relentless efforts of officers who worked day and night to ensure justice for Julia’s family, it is impossible not to also be overwhelmed with sadness.”
On 7 July, Wheeler had his sentencing hearing and was handed a life sentence by Mr Justice Wall.
He will serve a minimum of 37 years in prison for the crime.
Mr Justive Wall said: “Your actions have not just served to end the one life prematurely but have also destroyed the lives of the whole of her family.
“I am drawn on the evidence to the obvious conclusion that this was a not a spur of the moment aberration by you.
“Rather it was an attack which was planned and thought through in advance.”
“You were there looking for a lone female victim and you were sexually motivated to do so.”
Julia James’ daughter Bethan Coles said outside court: “I think we are pleased with 37 years, although clearly it never brings my Mum back.
“What it does do is keep women safe from harm and what he may do in the future.”
What is Callum Wheeler’s background?
Callum wheeler has been described as a “complete and utter loner” whose life “consisted of nothing” by police.
His suspicous behaviour in Snowdown prior to the murder of Ms James caused alarm for local residents, with ms James herself commented on the “weird dude” and his prescence to her husband.
He hadd moved to Snowdon from south-east London and has been described as having a fragile relationship with his family, some of the only people he interacted with.
Detective superintendent Gavin Moss, senior investigating officer on the case, said: “During an investigation such as this, we delve into that person’s history, and I have to say, very, very unusually, very little could be found about Callum Wheeler.
“He, for instance, never used social media. He was an individual who didn’t have any friends.
“His phone was surprising because it contained basically nothing. He hardly had any contacts, and in life he was an absolute loner.
“He wasn’t studying or working. This was somebody who had a life that consisted of absolutely nothing.
“His relationship with his brother - they didn’t even know each other, really. He didn’t know what occupation his brother had. Not a great deal came from the family.”
Despite locals being alarmed at his unusual behavior within the community, Wheeler has no previous run-ins with police.