A plaque dedicated to PCSO Julia James has been stolen within hours of her killer being convicted of her murder.
Callum Wheeler, 22, was found guilty at Canterbury Crown Court on Monday of the murder of the 53-year-old who he beat to death as she walked her dog in fields and woodland near to her home in Snowdown, Kent.
Between 6.30pm and 9pm on Monday, the plaque, which features photographs of the mother-of-two, was removed from Market Place, Aylesham.
A Kent Police spokesman said: “Officers in Aylesham are appealing for help following the disappearance of a plaque in memory of PCSO Julia James.
“It is reported that the ceramic plaque, which had been placed near the Miners’ Wheel memorial in the village’s Market Place, was removed between 6.30pm and 9pm on the evening of Monday 16 May.
“Officers are carrying out inquiries into the circumstances to determine whether any criminal offences have been committed and have released a photo of the plaque as part of their appeal.”
Chief Inspector Daniel Carter said: “Local officers remain in the area as part of their ongoing work with the community and I would like to thank residents for their continued support and encourage anyone with information about the plaque to get in touch with us.”
Wheeler, described as a loner, was seen roaming the countryside in the days before Mrs James’ murder carrying a railway jack, the weapon he used to kill her.
On arrest, Wheeler told officers “sometimes I do things that I cannot control” and “you can’t go into the woods and expect to be safe”.
He also told a member of police staff that he would return to the woodland and rape and kill a woman, and that Mrs James had deserved to die.
On Monday afternoon, a jury of eight women and four men at Canterbury Crown Court took less than one hour and 10 minutes to find him guilty of Mrs James’s murder.