A UNIVERSITY worker apologised to his boss in the middle of stabbing her to death. 

David Browning showed little emotion as he told a jury in great detail how he attacked University of Brighton payroll manager Jillian Howell at her home. 

Browning said “I’m sorry Jill” after stabbing her in the back, throat and chest – before continuing to stab her three more times.  Giving evidence from the witness box at Hove Crown Court yesterday, Browning told how he had first thought about killing Ms Howell two weeks before her death. 

He said he had been suffering from depression after the death of his father the year before and also described a “toxic working environment” in the university’s payroll department.  He told how he had put his shotgun in the back of a hired van and a knife in his pocket, before making his way to Ms Howell’s home in Sandgate Road, Fiveways, Brighton, for dinner. 

He said: “I can’t remember the exact time but I had been there about three hours.  “Jill looked at me and said ‘do you want to think about going home now?’  “I said ‘I can’t go home’.  “She said ‘why?’  “I said ‘because I have posted my suicide notes on the way here’.  “She was very shocked and said to me ‘Dave I need to take you to hospital’ .

“I said ‘I think I need to go to the police station’.

“she said ‘no I think I need to take you to hospital’.

“She got up, picked up one of her trainers.  “I was behind her.  “I felt this whoosh come over me. I pulled the knife out and stabbed her in the back.  “She fell forwards against the sofa where I had been sitting.  “I then stabbed her twice in the throat.  “I remember stabbing her six times.  “She grabbed the knife with her hand and screamed ‘you bastard’.  “I said ‘I’m sorry Jill. This is what mental health does to you. It’s not you’.

“She then moved to the right and lay on her back.

“I remember stabbing her once in the chest and another two times in the throat.  “I was thinking ‘what the hell is going on? What have you just done? Why have you just attacked someone who was helping you?  “I just felt shame, guilt. I was just in complete despair.”  Browning said he remembered scrawling the word “bully” across Ms Howell’s forehead – but could not explain his actions.  He said: “I don’t know what made me do that. That’s disgusting. I will never forgive myself for doing that.  “That’s what haunts me to this day.”  His barrister Graham Trembath QC asked: “Why did you kill Jill Howell?”  He replied: “I would love to know why.  “I don’t understand my actions. I can’t explain my actions.  “It is something that will haunt me for the rest of my life.  “I killed my friend.  “I will never forgive myself for that.  “I have also ruined the lives of her family and friends, my family and friend, my work colleagues. “ Browning said he had first considered harming Ms Howell on October 10 – after his boss referred him to occupational health as she tried to help him cope with suicidal thoughts.

He said: “I had thoughts about killing her.  “I couldn’t understand it.  “I was a mess.  “I couldn’t understand anything happening to me at that time. I was barely functioning.  “Everything was negative.  “I don’t know why I thought about killing Jill.  “I could never justify it. I could never explain it.  “I have sat there for the past six month trying to find a good reason and there isn’t any.  Browning said that on October 25 he thought to himself “It was my time to die”.

As he arrived at Ms Howell’s home he said he thought to himself: “Do I have to do this? Do I have to kill her? Do I have to kill myself?”

He added: “I look at this as madness. It was fantasy. It’s almost like make believe.  “I don’t recognise myself. I don’t know what I was thinking or how I was thinking.”  Browning spoke of a “toxic” work environment and said Ms Howell would shout at staff when frustrated.  He said at times he felt “demeaned” adding: “I could be best friends  with her one minute and best enemies the next.”  Browning had worked in the department for 28 years and previously been passed over for the manager’s role before Ms Howell was appointed to the post.  He said they fell out after she started, adding: “I felt a bit demeaned by  some of the comments she was making to me.

“Our work was a high pressure stressful environment and it affected every member of the team.  “I thought I was strong enough to deal with my problems.  “Lots of people were saying to me ‘Dave you need help’ . I would just say I’m alright. I wasn’t though.

“I would say I felt hurt personally by things she said.  “I could understand she was frustrated.  “I could be best friends with her one minute and best enemies the next.  “That’s probably not the best way to say it.”

The prosecution suggest Browning became “controlling, possessive and jealous” when when it became clear his relationship with Ms Howell was not going to go any further, but he denies having a crush on her.  He said: “I had a close emotional relationship with Jill.  “She wasn’t just my boss she was my friend, but it didn’t go any further than that.

“I didn’t have a crush on her.  “I’m a happily married man. “ Browning, 51, of Willow Drive, Seaford, admits manslaughter by diminished responsibility but denies murder.  The trial continues.  Browning “knew what he was doing” when he killed Jillian Howell.  Alan Gardner for the prosecution cross-examining Browning said: “You knew what you were doing when you killed her.

“You were planning to kill her.”  “You made a decision to kill Jill Howell.”  “You could have decided not to kill her. You had a choice as to what to do.”  “Yes”, Browning replied. “I know I’m responsible.  Mr Gardner added: “And after you killed her you did not lose control did you.  “After you killed her you were anxious to cover up the type of relationship you had with her.  “You deleted the text messages and posted that poster on Facebook.

“The message you wanted to leave behind if you killed yourself was that Jill was a bully and that’s not true is it?  “No,” Browning replied.  The trial continues.