A serving police community support officer whose body was found in woodland died from “significant head injuries”, police said.
The body of Julia James, 53, was found in Akholt Wood, Snowdown, near Dover, on Tuesday.
Kent Police said hundreds of officers were working on the murder inquiry but no motive or suspects had been found.
A post-mortem examination carried out on Thursday concluded she died from a blunt force trauma, police said.
Ms James, whose body was found a few hundred yards from her house, had been taking her dog for a walk when she was killed. The pet was found unharmed at the scene.
Speaking at a press conference in nearby Aylesham, Assistant Chief Constable Tom Richards, of Kent Police, declined to rule out she was killed by a stranger.
He said: “There is no evidence that any of her possessions were missing.”
He said it was a “rare and isolated” event, and that Ms James had earlier been working from home and was not in uniform when she was found.
When asked if it was a possibility that she had been attacked by someone she came across in her line of work, he replied: “We are considering all possible motivations and all possible options. We certainly have not established that at this stage.”
Ms James joined the force as a PCSO in 2008 and had more recently been working with victims of domestic abuse while based in Canterbury.
Mr Richards said: “She was a hugely-devoted, passionate individual who was completely committed to serving the people of Kent.
“My heartfelt thoughts go out to her family, her friends and of course her colleagues.”
‘No clear suspects’
Earlier, Kent Police’s deputy chief constable Tim Smith told BBC Radio Kent: “We’ve got hundreds of officers working on that investigation while we try to establish exactly what happened to Julia, and more importantly who did this to Julia and why.
“We are working very hard to identify a motive and we’re working very hard to identify who may have committed this. We don’t have any clear suspects at this time.”
Mr Smith added: “We just don’t know why this has happened.”
He said he was “unable to say either way” if the attack had been sexually motivated.
“We are keeping a very open mind about the motive.”
At the scene
By Simon Jones, BBC South East reporter
People have been arriving again this morning, bringing bouquets of flowers and taking a quiet moment of contemplation.
What people are asking, above all, is, is it safe for them to go out? Is it safe for them to walk their dogs?
Police say there is an increased presence of officers in this area and they understand that if people are feeling worried they should go and talk to the officers on the ground.
Detectives are also desperately appealing for people who have information to come forward.
Ms James’s nephew Karl James told 5 News his aunt was “just a lovely person”.
He said: “Obviously it’s been a real shock. I work away, but my wife is here – heavily pregnant – and with young kids, so she’s on edge at the moment too.
“So I’ve come home and just waiting for answers – that’s the worst bit really.”
Detectives have appealed for anybody who was in the area on Monday or Tuesday to come forward.
Police have been carrying out searches of woodland and nearby fields, and Ms James’s home was cordoned off.
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Date: 30 April 2021