More than 130 marches are underway in the UK and overseas today in memory of PCSO’s assassination Julia James, with the Kent marchers keeping a minute’s silence before leaving.
People from all over who have been touched by the tragic death of the mother of two are marching to let her family, friends and community know “that we care, beyond the borders of Kent”.
At least 137 ‘peaceful’ walks are currently underway across the country, including places in Kent such as Aylesham, Canterbury, Ashford, Hythe, Dover, Whitstable and Deal.
In Aylesham, the village closest to Snowdown where Julia lived, police officers and PCSO colleagues bowed their heads for silence. Julia was well known in Aylesham and several members of her family live there.
The idea has also been picked up by people overseas in the United States, Canada, Spain, Lanzarote, Italy, Austria, New Zealand and Oman.
Julia, 53, was found dead with serious head injuries by Ackholt Wood in Snowdown, near Canterbury, shortly after 4 p.m. on April 27.
She had gone for a walk with her beloved Jack Russell, Toby, at the time.
Organizer Sally-Anne Bedford discusses the idea behind the walks
Callum Wheeler, 21, from nearby Aylesham, has since been charged with her murder and is due to stand trial on November 29.
Touched by the tragic news, Sally-Anne Bedford, a Cheshire dog owner who often walks alone with her dog in wooded areas, came up with the idea of taking a walk in memory of Julia.
Ms Bedford says she, like many others, felt Ms James’ death did not seem to incite the same level of national outrage as that of Sarah Everard, 33, who was killed after returning home in South London in March. 4.
She said: “Not many people seemed to talk about Julia in the days following the event.
“And that shocked me because we had just gotten out of all the very legitimate outrage at the death of Sarah Everard.
“The only thing I could think of was that it had to do with her age – that as an older woman we weren’t as interested in her, which was quite shocking to me.
“All women are equally important and all should be able to stay safe.”
Ms Bedford says the news of Julia’s death made her more wary and aware of her surroundings while walking.
“I think a lot of people probably are,” she said. “She’s in my head every time I go for a walk right now.”
His idea of a dog walk in memory of Julia started with messages to a few friends in Cheshire and quickly snowballed.
Today, 127 marches are expected to take place at 10 a.m., while a Facebook page set up for the events has gathered more than 1,400 members.
“It’s really, really simple,” Ms. Bedford said. “All people have to do is walk – whether you are alone, with a partner, in a small group of friends, or in a very large group.”
Walkers are invited to make a minute’s silence for Julia, Monday at 10 a.m., before leaving. They are also asked to wear a blue ribbon or blue garment, in honor of Julia and her work in the police.
“The most important thing is to walk at 10am and think about Julia, and just let your friends, family and local community know that we care, beyond the borders of Kent,” Ms Bedford said.
“The idea is to spread it as far as possible.
“The only thing we said was to keep it very calm, not to talk about Julia, and not to waste the police’s time breaking the rules on Covid and things like that.
“We all really care. We can understand what [Julia] was doing because we do this all the time.
“I think people appreciated his work as PCSO as well. Most of us don’t know Julia, but some of her friends and family have told us a bit about her.
“Reading the work she’s done with women who are victims of domestic violence – that’s something that made us think she deserves the attention it gives her. She just seems like a real spark.”
For more information, or to find a walk near you, visit the Facebook page.
Read more: All the latest Canterbury news