In October of last year, Jillian Howell was stabbed to death in her own home by David Browning. The victim was Browning’s boss at the University of Brighton. Howell, a Samaritans volunteer, formed a close relationship with Browning after the passing of his father and she began taking time to help him through his grief. It was stated to the jury at Browning’s trial that he became “controlling, possessive and jealous” when Howell did not want the relationship to develop any further than a friendship. Howell told a friend of hers, Russell Nel, that she thought Browning was “suicidal and struggling”. On the night of her cold-blooded murder, Browning stabbed Howell once in the back, eight times in the neck and six times in her front whilst wearing a bandana. He had been round to her house for dinner that night but wrote ‘bully’ in marker pen across her forehead before spraying graffiti on her walls implicating another man for her murder. Browning then called samaritans to say “I have done a really, really bad thing” before turning himself into the police a little after 6pm.
The timeline of events that lead up to the murder and the platonic and somewhat caring relationship they implicate does not match the ‘bullying’ narrrative spoken of by Browning. The court heard that they went for two or more drinks last year with Browning texting her at the start of August “what a wonderful lady you are” and further “I don’t think you realise how much you mean to me as a friend”. As heard to the court, it seemed as though the two had a good friendship. It was around July of last year that Browning bought a shotgun and slightly later in the year when he bought a gun cabinet under the claim of clay pigeon shooting. In late October, the day before he has arranged a dinner with Howell, he hires a ‘Choices’ van which he later told psychiatrists was there to “conceal the shotgun”. The next day he ate dinner at Howell’s house before stabbing her between 11pm-12am.
Browning has claimed that his depression was to blame. Prosecution told the court “this was a premeditated, cold blooded murder of a woman in her home by a man she trusted as a colleague and a friend. A man she was trying to counsel since the sad loss of his father. He killed her out of anger rather than an uncontrollable urge caused by his depression. He planned to kill her several weeks before and made careful arrangements to carry it out”. Furthermore, in an account given to a psychiatrist after the murder had happened it was stated “he said he knew he would have to kill her on that visit. He accepted that he had a choice. He described leaving the shotgun and a change of clothes in a rental van outside and went in to her house with the knife. When Miss Howell told him it was time to go home he told her he had posted suicide notes. Jillian Howell’s response was to tell him he needed to go to hospital. He described her going to get her trainers and saying she would get him to hospital…she bent down to tie her shoe laces. He pulled out the knife and stabbed her in the back…then he described sitting in a chair in her lounge for one to two hours before deciding it was time to kill himself”. Prosecutor Alan Gardner said that Browning was fearful of Jillian Howell’s rejection so planned to kill her out of jealousy and anger. When officers came to the scene, after Browning handed himself in, they described him as being “calm, coherent and collected”.
David Browning has admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility and possession of a knife in a public place. The married father-of-two will reappear in court as the trial continues.