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A man who stabbed his boss to death and wrote “bully” on her forehead has been jailed for life and ordered to serve at least 28 years.
David Browning, 52, of Seaford, was found guilty of murder at Hove Crown Court on Wednesday.
He stabbed Jillian Howell in the chest, neck and abdomen, leaving her with 15 stab and slash wounds in October.
Browning had formed an intense attachment to the 46-year-old Brighton university payroll boss, jurors heard.
The court was told he had gone to her house for dinner and reacted with anger when she rejected him.
Sentencing, Judge Christine Laing QC said the way in which Browning murdered her was “savage”, adding: “This was a sustained attack and the terror and trauma for her in the final few minutes of her life is unimaginable.”
The judge said Ms Howell “desperately tried to defend herself”.
She said Browning “defiled” her body by writing the world “bully” on her forehead but added: “Nothing was further from the truth.”
“The reality of Jillian Howell is that she was a compassionate woman, a quality that cost her her life,” she said.
‘Cocktail of emotions’
Ms Laing said Browning had developed a crush that turned into an obsession.
The judge told him: “I am quite satisfied that what led to you killing her was a very ordinary cocktail of human emotions, desire, jealously, frustration and anger.”
This was illustrated in his vitriol towards Ms Howell’s close friend Sean McDonald, who he tried and failed to frame for the killing, she added.
“Jillian did more than most people would have done to support you as a concerned colleague and friend but it is plain you wanted to be more important or special to her than that.
“I have watched you closely during this trial and you have shown no emotion and little remorse other than for your own situation.”
Browning had claimed he and Ms Howell clashed when they first started working together in 2015, but then became friends.
The court heard Browning described as the “epitome of urban normality” until his father died in 2016, leaving him with depression.
Ms Howell told friends she wanted to help him.
In the months before the killing, Browning applied for a firearms licence, bought a shotgun and knife, hired a van, deleted messages and data on his phone and took a change of clothes to the crime scene.
The court heard the pair shared a curry and then he stabbed her.
After the killing, he posted a cartoon on Facebook with the slogan “stand up to bullies, then kill them”, before he phoned the Samaritans.
When he handed himself in to police, the father-of-two claimed it was manslaughter by diminished responsibility.
Graham Trembath, defending, said Browning showed “no mercy” in the inexcusable killing but asked for “some light at the end of the tunnel”.
Ms Laing accepted his diagnosed condition may have played some part, but said he had been rational at the time. Image copyright Sussex Police
After the hearing, Mr McDonald described how he felt when he found out Ms Howell had died – and then days later discovered someone had tried to implicate him in the killing.
“I thought beforehand I could not be any more heartbroken but then I was and it completely broke me.
“It hurt me quite deeply that anyone thought I could harm Jill in any way at all.”
Describing Ms Howell as “intensely private” and “very unassuming,” he said: “It was disgraceful that anyone should try and link me to harming someone so beautiful.”
Adding that Ms Howell had been loved by everybody, he said: “As regards the murderer, I’ll never mention his name ever again. I’ll never speak about him and he can be forgotten, but every day I’ll remember Jill.”
Tributes to Ms Howell were also paid by director of Brighton and Hove Samaritans Alison Pratt who said the “dedicated” volunteer supported people in distress and played a vital role in recruiting and training.
“We know that it will continue to be very difficult for Jill’s family and friends, and our thoughts are with them,” she said.
“We will remember her as a warm, compassionate and committed member of the team.”
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University worker ‘stabbed his boss to death in her own home and then scrawled ‘bully’ across her forehead after forming ‘intense attachment’ to her’ — (The Daily Mail)
By Connor Boyd
Published: 16:36, 23 April 2018 | Updated: 17:35, 23 April 2018
Jillian Howell, 46, found stabbed to death at her home in Brighton last October
David Browning, 52, admitted manslaughter but is now on trial for her murder
Hove Crown Court heard Browning launched his attack after she rejected him
A university worker stabbed his boss to death in her own home and then scrawled ‘bully’ across her forehead, a court was told.
David Browning, 52, launched a furious attack on Jillian Howell stabbing her 15 times after she rejected his romantic advances, a jury heard.
He is said to have then gone to the police station and handed himself in, confessing to officers: ‘In a nutshell I have killed my boss.’
But in 2015 Jill Howell was employed as his manager and the pair had to work closely together.
During that time Browning’s father died and the university worker began to suffer serious problems with depression.
Recognising his difficulties, Miss Howell, who also volunteered at the Samaritan, is said to have stepped in to try to help him.
Jillian Howell, 46, was found stabbed to death at her home in Brighton last October
She went for drinks with him and listened to his problems, the court was told.
But Browning became obsessed with Miss Howell and started showering her with gifts, flowers and text messages, the court heard.
Alan Gardner, prosecuting, said: ‘David Browning had formed an intense attachment with his boss and wanted a closer relationship with her.’
As well as repeatedly inviting her out for drinks, Mr Gardner said that Mr Browing sent inappropriate texts to her outside work.
The court was told that in one he said: ‘I adore you personally and professionally. I am there for you anytime. Dave x.’
Others are said to have included a message that read: ‘What a wonderful woman you are.
Miss Howell went for drinks with Browning and listened to his stories after he became depressed following the death of his father
‘You are more than just my boss and I think you know that.’
He also messaged her describing her as his ‘rock’, adding: ‘I will continue to be inappropriate but just to make you smile.’
Miss Howell became worried about his ‘intense attachment’ to her and confided in a friend, the court was told.
Mr Gardner said: ‘She told him [her friend] that David was suicidal and struggling to open up about his problems.
‘She mentioned David had told her she must never leave the university and never leave get a boyfriend because he needed her support. He was behaving in a possessing, controlling and jealous way.’
The court heard Browning began to suspect Miss Howell was in a relationship with another man, Sean McDonald.
In the weeks leading up to her killing Browning, who had a firearms licence, bought a shotgun and a 10cm lock knife an outdoor store.
He told shop staff he was interested in taking up clay pigeon shooting.
On the evening of the killing Miss Howell invited Browning round to her house ‘to cheer him up’ and she cooked him a meal.
But fearing she was about to reject him Browning went armed with the 10cm lock knife, the court heard.
Sometime during the evening he plunged the knife into her back before stabbing her in the neck, chest and stomach a total of 15 times.
Her body was found lying on the floor of the living room at her home in Brighton covered in blood.
Mr Gardner said: ‘The word bully had been scrawled across her forehead and other graffiti was scrawled around the house which suggested Sean McDonald might have had something to do with her death. He didn’t.
‘David Browning went to her house with the intention to kill her and himself. During the evening he attacked her. He stabbed her in the back and then delivered the forceful blows which killed her.
‘The killing of Jill Howell was a murder. David Browning was unable to take his relationship with her any further. He feared that she was about to reject him.
‘He was killing her out of jealousy and anger rather than an uncontrollable urge caused by his depression.
Mr Gardner said: ‘He suspected Sean McDonald was in a relationship with Jill Howell. He made careful arrangements to kill her several weeks beforehand.’
When he was arrested in the early hours of October 26 outside the police station he was clutching both weapons, the court was told.
He is said to have told police he had stabbed Miss Howell to death and had intended to kill himself with the shotgun.
Browning, 51, denies murder but pleaded guilty to possessing a knife in a public place.
The trial continues.