'Dognapper was on the prowl' weeks before PCSO Julia James was killed

A dognapper was on the prowl in Kent weeks before PCSO Julia James was killed, it has emerged today.

The 53-year-old grandmother was beaten to death while out walking her Jack Russell terrier on a path through woodland close to her home in the Kent hamlet of Snowdown, near Canterbury.

No-one has yet been arrested in relation to Ms James' death and police have not revealed a possible motive for her killing. 

But it has today emerged local police have warned residents in the area about a potential dog napping incident which took place weeks before Ms James's death. 

The warning, published in the local parish magazine, urges dog walkers not to go out alone - and even to carry an alarm.

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Police say a suspicious man in a BMW approached two dog walkers in March.

The man, thought to be in his 60s, is said to have offered to 'exchange' the pair's dog for cigarettes.

The warning reads: 'Dog owners are warned to be vigilant when your dog is outside the house. Your dog cannot be safely left unsupervised even in your own garden!

PCSO Julia James was killed while out walking her Jack Russell in Ackholt Wood in Snowdown, in Kent

PCSO Julia James was killed while out walking her Jack Russell in Ackholt Wood in Snowdown, in Kent

The 53-year-old grandmother was beaten to death while out walking on a path through woodland close to her home in Snowdown

The 53-year-old grandmother was beaten to death while out walking on a path through woodland close to her home in Snowdown

it has today emerged local police have warned residents in the area about a potential dog napping incident which took place weeks before Ms James's death

it has today emerged local police have warned residents in the area about a potential dog napping incident which took place weeks before Ms James's death

'On Tuesday, March 16, two dog-walkers were approached - in broad daylight - by a man in his 60s, from a black BMW in the lanes between Nonington and Aylesham, asking to exchange their pet dog for cigarettes and did they want to get rid of the dog anyway!

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'The advice is not to be alone, if possible. Extra precautions should be taken such as walking with a stick, keeping your dog close and on a lead, carrying an alarm and having your mobile phone fully charged.

'Please can you report any such approaches to police, taking careful not of any car number plates and other identifying details.'

Ms James was walking at her Jack Russell at the time of her death. The dog remained at the scene with her body, according to reports.

Today a source told the Sun that Ms James' death could have been a dog napping gone 'horribly wrong'.

The source said: 'It's possible the murderer was targeting her dog but it went horribly wrong. 

'The killer is not going to want to take a chipped dog knowing he's just committed a murder.

'He may have panicked and fled, leaving the dog.'

Today a Kent Police spokesperson told MailOnline: 'We are keeping an open mind in regards to all possible lines of enquiry.' 

It comes after the Mail revealed how a female dog walker was confronted by a prowler in a van one mile away from where Ms James was killed.

The woman is said to have been accosted by a man in a white transit vehicle as she walked along a quiet path in the village of Nonnington, Kent, two weeks ago. 

The dog walker was allegedly pestered by a man in Nonnington as she walked her dog. She

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