A dognapper behaving suspiciously was reportedly spotted weeks before the police.
Driving a BMW, the man in his 60s twice approached dog owners in a threatening manner, it is claimed.
It prompted cops to put up posters urging women not to walk pets alone and to carry a stick and alarm before Julia was found dead in Snowdown, Kent, The Sun reported.
A dog notice in a local magazine warned women to not be alone, carry an alarm because of dognapping attempts.
It read: “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!
"The advice is not to be alone, if possible. Extra precautions should be taken such as walking with a stick, keeping your dog close on a lead, carrying an alarm and having your mobile phone on and fully charged at all times.
"Please can you report any such approaches to police, taking careful note of any car number plates and other identifying details.”
The alert emerged after the mum-of-two Julia, 53, was attacked while walking her Jack Russell dog.
A source told the newspaper: “It’s possible the murderer was targeting her dog but it went horribly wrong.
“She may have struggled, leading to the attack.
"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.”
The body of Julia James was discovered in woods in Snowdown, Kent, last Tuesday.
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Detectives have not yet recovered a weapon and there is no clear motive for her murder.
But police are also investigating reports of a flasher.
John Turnbull, Julia's uncle yesterday posted on Facebook: “Julia has been taken from us by some worthless cowardly excuse for a human being for no other reason than his own sense of self-gratification to justify what he did, leaving behind a family full of broken hearts.
“Please find this monster before he causes more grief."
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