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8 August 2011, 13:23
A 54-year-old woman who battered to death a Godalming pensioner with a rounders bat before burying his body in her back garden was today jailed for life for his murder.
Ann Browning had moved 82-year-old widower Bill Williamson into her address in Milton’s Crescent, Ockford Ridge, in September last year after he sold his nearby home for £250,000.
Mr Williamson, a retired postman, was never seen alive again, sparking an investigation by Surrey Police’s Major Crime Investigation Team.
Browning initially told officers that Mr Williamson, whom she had befriended a few years earlier, had gone to Ireland for a family funeral. But detectives began to unravel her story and she eventually confessed to repeatedly hitting him over the head with the plastic bat during an argument.
She wrapped his body in a shower curtain and then buried him in a hole in her back garden next to her patio.
Browning was today ordered to serve a minimum of 25 years in jail following a two-day Newton hearing before Judge Christopher Critchlow at Guildford Crown Court.
The mother of two had pleaded guilty to the murder of Mr Williamson at an earlier court appearance but denied in her basis of plea that her motive was financial, claiming she lost her temper in an argument when he told her he wanted to go to Ireland.
However Judge Critchlow rejected Browning’s claims after hearing in the weeks after his murder that she forged Mr Williamson’s signature on documents to transfer £140,000 of the proceeds of the house sale into her own account. She also used his bank card on 12 separate occasions to go on shopping trips to local supermarkets and other stores.
In addition to the life sentence, self-employed cleaner Browning was also made the subject of a Confiscation Order for £250,293 to be repaid as compensation to Mr Williamson’s estate.
The court heard that police were alerted to Mr Williamson’s disappearance on October 5 last year following concerns by his doctor that he had missed a couple of appointments which had been cancelled by Browning.
Officers attended her home address and she claimed that Mr Williamson had travelled to Ireland but she didn’t know where and didn’t have a contact number. She claimed that his Mazda car had recently been scrapped although officers later discovered it parked in a nearby street. Enquiries revealed that the car had been registered to Browning on 16 September.
After financial enquiries revealed that Mr Williamson’s account had been used in the Godalming area since he was alleged to have gone to Ireland, Browning was arrested on suspicion of his murder.
At first she answered ‘no comment’ to all questions asked but when she was interviewed for the second time, she admitted to murdering Mr Williamson. See video below
She told detectives she had been looking forward to him moving in and he had promised to help her out so she would not have to work anymore. However she claimed that he changed his mind and said he wanted to go to Ireland resulting in an argument.
She said that during the row she grabbed a baseball bat and repeatedly struck him over the head. After burying his body she then disposed of the bloodied clothes in the refuse, she told officers.
Browning stated that she was keeping the murder secret until after her son’s wedding that coming weekend after which she was going to hand herself in.
The investigation revealed that Mr Williamson met Browning around three or four years before his death at a local historical society event.
Over time, Mr Williamson gave her money for a variety of reasons such as dental work or petrol. In February 2008, he reported to police that he suspected Browning of having stolen £1,200 from his account however there was not enough evidence for her to be charged.
After a period of the pair not talking, Browning reinstigated contact and this time the relationship progressed to the point where they both agreed to put their houses on the market with a view to buying a property together. Mr Williamson also gave her £6,000 towards a brand new Kia car.
He moved out of his home in Church Road, Milford on September 10 – the last time he was seen alive. Browning confessed in interview to killing him the next day.
Detective Inspector Juliet Parker said: “Our sympathies remain with the family and friends of Bill Williamson who have thankfully now seen justice done.
“Mr Williamson was a lonely man whose yearning for companionship sadly led him into the clutches of Ann Browning.
“She is a devious, calculating and callous individual whose greed led to this wicked crime. She manipulated Mr Williamson to the point where he agreed to sell his house and move in with her. The very next day she brutally murdered him and showed a complete lack of humanity by stripping and then dumping his body in a hole in her back garden.
“She then tried to pull the wool over the eyes of his friends and police officers by claiming he had gone to Ireland for a funeral. However our skilled investigators soon exposed her story as a pack of lies and left her with no option but to confess as the net closed in.
“Even then she still tried to claim that her motive for killing him was not financial. But we were able to prove that not only did she transfer a huge sum of money from the house sale into her own account, but she also used Mr Williamson’s bank card to go shopping in the days and weeks after the murder.
“I would like to pay tribute to the professionalism and expertise of the officers in my team who pieced together the events surrounding Mr Williamson’s death and exposed Browning’s guilt.”
Click on the video to see Mrs Browning's confession