David Browning guilty of stabbing University of Brighton boss Jillian Howell to death before scrawling 'bully' on her body

Spurned David Browning, 52, knifed Jillian Howell, 46, in the chest, neck and abdomen with a 10inch blade, scrawling "bully" on her bloodied body after she invited him to dinner at her Brighton home in October last year.

Browning had pounced on Ms Howell as she tied her laces – apologising to her as she screamed "you b******" and tried to grab the knife off him.

Browning, who had worked underneath Ms Howell in the university's payroll department, then left her body in the lounge for up to six hours before calling 999 from outside a police station, telling them: "In a nutshell, I have killed me boss".

Browning had denied murder but was today found guilty of the charge in court – warned by Judge Christine Laing that he will face a minimum term of at least 25 years.

Prosecutor Alan Gardner had told the court that Browning, nicknamed Spock, was a spurned admirer, saying he was "deeply self-centred, selfish, a man with a vindictive streak".

In his closing argument to the Hove Crown Court, Mr Gardner pointed out that Browning had never given a proper explanation for why he killed Samaritans volunteer Ms Howell – but said the violent outburst came after he found she didn't share his romantic feelings.

Mr Gardner said: "He plainly became attracted to her.

"But, on October 26 last year, he discovered she didn't have the same feelings as him. She rejected him and Mr Browning reacted with anger and violence, that is the reality of the case, the prosecution says.

"This was a crime driven by those feelings … of anger, jealousy, betrayal, those sort of things."


FRAMED: Former detective was framed for his best friend's murder

A FORMER detective was framed for the murder of his best friend after she was stabbed to death.

Sean McDonald was told the devastating news that the bloodied body of University of Brighton boss Jillian Howell had been found at her home – with clues suggesting he had been involved.

At the scene, graffiti had been sprayed onto the walls, while a letter was left suggesting he had been complicit in the crime.

But instead, it was an elaborate plot orchestrated by murderer David Browning to shift blame onto Mr McDonald.

As part of the scheme, documents had been forge to try to change the sole beneficiary of Ms Howell's pension fund to be Mr McDonald – to support the claim in the letter that the pair were planning to split the proceeds after her death.
Mr McDonald's emails and phone records were searched to rule out any trace to Browning, who later admitted being behind all of this because he wanted to set up the serving councillor and former mayor to be the "scapegoat".
Speaking exclusively to the Press Association, Mr McDonald said: "He painted Jill to be this demon and a bully at work. But no one has a bad word to say about her. In the end he had to admit that he wrote 'bully' on her forehead but she wasn't one.

"She was not like that, she was an absolutely lovely person, and I was not in anyway involved.

"He didn't seem to be able to give a reason for killing her, but the prosecution thought he was jealous of my relationship with her and I think this too from what I've heard in the trial and from what other people have told me.

"He is just evil."

Browning had initially claimed there was a "toxic" working environment at the University of Brighton, having worked there since 1989.

He claimed Ms Howell would "take to task" staff by shouting, humiliating and belittling them on occasion – although later admitting this was embellished.

But the court was told the pair became close as Ms Howell supported Browning as he struggled with depression after the death of his father.

After he confided in her on the night of the murder, the jury was told he feared she would try to get him sectioned – stabbing her in the back.

The defence, Graham Trembath QC, had argued that Browning had been in a depressed state at the time of the killing on October 26.

Dressed in a black suit and light blue chequered shirt with dark rimmed glasses, Browning stood motionless and showed no emotion when the verdict was announced.

Ms Howell's family and friends today hugged each other outside of court after the verdict was handed down.

A University of Brighton spokesperson said: ""We do not recognise much of what was said during the trial about our hard-working colleagues and the environment in the payroll office.

"We have conducted a thorough investigation and found no evidence to support the claims of a so-called toxic work environment and, indeed, Mr Browning himself admitted under cross examination that he had not been bullied.

"We are focusing our thoughts on Jill's family and their tragic loss, and supporting those within the university who have lost a kind, dedicated and highly-valued friend and colleague."

Browning will be sentenced tomorrow.


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