A Seaford man was found guilty of murdering Brighton woman Jill Howell at Hove Crown Court today (May 2).
Police said the jury found David Browning, 52, guilty of murder after just two hours of deliberation.
Miss Howell, 46, was found dead in her home in Sandgate Road, Brighton on October 25 last year.
She worked as a payroll manager at the University of Brighton, and the court heard she had been supporting her colleague Browning through depression after his father had died.
Browning had visited Miss Howell in her home on the evening she was killed, and police said when he was due to go home, Browning told Miss Howell he was contemplating suicide and had posted suicide notes to family and colleagues.
Miss Howell, who was a volunteer for the Samaritans, told him he should seek medical help and that he needed to go to the hospital, which is when police said Browning stabbed her 15 times before attempting suicide with a shotgun, but he couldn’t pull the trigger.
Police said Browning handed himself at Brighton Police Station (video above) at 6am the following day after making a 999 call.
Once inside, Browning told police: “In a nutshell, I’ve killed my boss.”
Browning denied murder, but admitted to manslaughter due to diminished responsibility claiming he was suffering from severe depression.
After Browning was convicted of murder, Detective Chief Inspector Till Sanderson, who led the investigation for the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, said: “Browning has been convicted of this horrific crime despite his efforts to minimise responsibility for his actions.
“Unfortunately what he did has resulted in almost unimaginable distress for members of Jill’s family and her friends, who will never erase the memories of a kind and caring person so abruptly and brutally taken from them. Jill gave up so much of her own time to help others through her voluntary work as a Samaritan, as well as to the person who killed her. It astonishes me that Browning still turned for advice and support from the charity that meant so much to Jill.
“Although this verdict will not bring Jill back to her loved ones, I’m pleased that suitable criminal closure has been brought to this case and I would like to thank those people who assisted in our investigation for their help and understanding in such tragic circumstances.”
Miss Howell’s family said: “We would like to thank Sussex Police for their thorough investigation into Jill’s death, the prosecution for their diligence and our family liaison officers and homicide support worker for their support and patience.
“We would also like to thank family, friends and colleagues, including Jill’s many friends and colleagues, for their love and support. Many of you have showed us such kindness and this has gone some way to restoring our faith in humanity.
“But most of all we would like to pay tribute to our beautiful Jill: Jill loved life, and lived it to the full. She was a loving and caring sister and the best Auntie in the history of the world, ever. Jill was a gentle and kind soul; she had an aura of calm and peace with a warm heart and an infectious smile. She was a fun person to be around and was always cheerful and laughing. She was hard-working, had tremendous honesty and integrity and had such a positive impact on all who knew her.
“Jill was generous with her time and loved to help people, always putting others before herself. Much of her spare time was spent volunteering as a listening volunteer at the Samaritans and we are so proud of the support and kindness she gave so readily to callers at a time in their lives when they needed it most. We hope the £4000 raised in her memory will enable the local branch to continue its good work. Many thanks are due to all those who have given so far and donations can still be accepted.
“The last six months have been truly awful. Jill’s death was shocking and incomprehensible and we are still struggling to accept and make sense of it. We are pleased that this process is now over but it doesn’t change anything for us, it doesn’t bring Jill back and we miss her so much. The deep sadness and emptiness we feel will be with us for the rest of our lives.
“Jill, we will carry you in our hearts forever.”
The Howell family has set up a fundraising page for Jill to raise cash for the Samaritans, where she volunteered. To donate, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jillhowell
Browning will be sentenced tomorrow (Thursday, May 3) at Hove Crown Court.