An obsessed university worker has been found guilty of murdering his boss after stabbing her 15 times and scrawling "bully" across her forehead.

David Browning left Jillian Howell lying covered in blood on the floor of her house in Sandgate Road, Fiveways, Brighton, after attacking her repeatedly with a knife, before writing the word across her head in one-inch letters with a black marker pen.

The Argus: Undated handout file photo issued by Sussex Police of Jillian Howell. David Browning has admitted killing her but denies murder.

The jury of eight women and four men returned the unanimous verdict at Hove Crown Court on Wednesday after deliberating for two hours and 20 minutes. 

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.

As the forewoman of the jury delivered the guilty verdict, cries of "yes" and "thank you" could be heard from Ms Howell's family in the public gallery. 

Browning had a 'vindictive streak'

The trial heard how Browning, a deputy to Ms Howell in the University of Brighton payroll department, was a spurned admirer who was "deeply self-centred, selfish, with a vindictive streak".

Prosecutor Alan Gardner called him the "epitome of urban normality", leading a stable life until it was jolted by the loss of his father who died after falling off a ladder in October 2016, leaving him in emotional crisis.

Browning claimed he and Ms Howell clashed at work but then became friends, and he decided he had to kill her after battling depression following the bereavement.

The Argus:

Samaritans volunteer Ms Howell, who had lost both her parents, told friends she wanted to help him and try to cheer him up by inviting him over to dinner at her Brighton home.

Browning, 52, planned the killing for months after forming an "intense attachment" to her and fearing she would reject him, Mr Gardner said.

He became "possessive, controlling and jealous", buying the 46-year-old gifts, flowers and wine - even bringing back presents for her from a holiday with his family.

His younger brother Barry had at one point asked him if he wanted an affair with Ms Howell, which he denied.

But text messages read to the court in which he said he "adored" her and she would look "stunning" in a proposed photo shoot, were "flirtatious and a tad inappropriate", according to a psychiatrist who gave evidence.

Ms Howell told friends she felt manipulated when Browning demanded she must "never leave" the university or get a boyfriend and should be "concentrating on him".

In the months before her death, he applied for a firearms licence, bought a shotgun and knife, hired a van, deleted swathes of messages and data on his phone and took a change of clothes to the crime scene.

Mr Gardner said Browning became "plainly attracted" to the single woman several years younger than him who was lending him a sympathetic ear, adding: "He discovered she didn't have the same feelings as him. She rejected him and he reacted with anger and violence, that is the reality of the case."

Browning insisted he had "daily" suicidal thoughts and was so depressed that at times he did not know what he was thinking, but that he had decided he "must" kill her two weeks before she died.

Brutal killing 

Members of the jury were in tears as Browning described the moment a "whoosh" came over him after he shared a curry with Ms Howell, and he stabbed her in the back while she bent down to tie a shoelace.

The Argus:

He told the court she grabbed the knife and screamed "You bastard" and he responded by saying: "I'm sorry Jill, this is what mental health does to you."

He stayed in the house for "several hours" on October 25 and into the early hours of the next morning, during which time he posted a cartoon on Facebook with the slogan "Stand up to bullies, then kill them" - a post "liked" by two people.

At around 6am he tried to hand himself in but found a police station closed, so he dialled 999 to say he was standing outside in the street with a knife and had attempted suicide.

When he was approached by officers, he was also found to have a gun but was "calm, coherent and collected".

When officers asked what happened, he said: "In a nutshell, I have killed my boss."


The father, who has a 21-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter, admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility and possession of a knife in a public place, but this was rejected by the prosecution.

Browning will be sentenced on Thursday and was warned by Judge Christine Laing he will face a minimum of at least 25 years.