A former Worthing mayor has spoken of his horror at being implicated in the murder of his close friend by the man who stabbed her to death.
Sean McDonald, who represents Northbrook ward on Worthing Borough Council, said being questioned by police investigating the murder of 46-year-old Jill Howell was ‘the most stressful’ time of his life.
Jill’s killer, 52-year-old David Browning from Seaford, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to a minimum of 28 years in prison at Hove Crown Court on Thursday.
Browning stabbed Jill, who was his boss, 15 times after she invited him to her Brighton home for a curry on Wednesday, October 25, last year.
He surrendered himself to police the next day but when officer’s attended Jill’s home, they found a note from Browning to police on the table, which said: “I have to tell you that I was in cahoots with Sean McDonald on this and he is compliant in all of this.”
Mr McDonald said: “It was appalling the allegation that was made against me. It just wasn’t true.
“The police saw through it and in the end [Browning] had to admit that everything was completely fabricated.”
When police first told him of Jill’s death, Mr McDonald said: “I was so shocked, I thought this could not get any worse.”
But then he was told of the allegation against him and he said: “Then it was ten times worse. It’s not something you expect at all.”
A police spokesman said: “It became clear during the investigation that Browning had sought to implicate a good friend of Jill’s, Sean McDonald, in the crime, even forging a death in service form, which was received by a pensions administrator two days after her death, assigning her benefits to him.”
Thankfully Jill’s family saw through Browning’s lies immediately and Mr McDonald said he was ‘humbled’ by their support throughout.
He said: “Losing someone in those circumstances was so incomprehensible. I still find it incomprehensible.
“This man gained her sympathy. She showed him love and sympathy and was met with hatred. It was despicable.”
Mr McDonald paid tribute to Jill, a payroll manager at the University of Brighton and a Samaritan, who accompanied him on many mayoral events in Worhting.
“I want to express what a beautiful person Jill was,” he said.
“You would not find one person who would dislike her. Everyone you spoke to said how lovely she was.”