Woman jailed for murdering man, 82

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A cleaner who beat an 82-year-old widower to death with a rounders bat for his money before burying him in her garden was jailed for life today.

Ann Browning, 54, was ordered to serve a minimum of 25 years for the "wicked murder" of retired postman William Williamson after a judge at Guildford Crown Court ruled she planned the killing to get his money.

Browning, of Miltons Crescent, Ockford Ridge, Surrey, had pleaded guilty to murder but denied the crime was planned.

She claimed she beat Mr Williamson with a plastic rounders bat in a temper then buried his body in a panic.

At a hearing to determine her motive for the murder, Guildford Crown Court last week heard Browning then stripped him naked, bound his legs with a belt, wrapped him in a shower curtain and put him head-first into a grave in her back garden.

Within days of his death in September 2010 she had transferred £140,000 of the proceeds of Mr Williamson's house sale into her own account and used his bank card to go on shopping trips to local supermarkets and other stores.

The court heard she then lied to police about his whereabouts, telling them he was in Ireland for a funeral.

She also took several measures to make people think he was alive, including closing an account with Royal Mail and cancelling medical appointments.

But when she was arrested, the mother-of-two admitted the murder, telling police she had killed Mr Williamson in a rage.

She claimed she planned to turn herself in after her younger son's wedding the following month and had transferred the money only because she was concerned about the stability of the bank.

But today Judge Christopher Critchlow, Recorder of Guildford, ruled that Browning had planned the murder.

He said: "I am sure that she did not kill him in a burst of temper in a row.

"Taking all her lies and the cumulative effect of them makes me sure that she did plan his murder.

"The Crown has made me sure that she had planned to kill him, whether to benefit herself alone or to give financial support to others.

"He was a small man and at his age could not resist what she did to him.

"This was therefore a wicked murder of a vulnerable old man done for financial gain."

Browning was visibly distressed throughout the hearing, sobbing and often shouting from the dock, including shouting "May God forgive your soul" to the judge as he sentenced her.

The court heard after Browning and Mr Williamson met in 2007, he changed his will to leave her the bulk of his estate.

But he later changed it back after accusing her of stealing £1,200 from an account she helped him set up.

Browning, who had been married twice before, was never charged. She denied the theft but the pair parted company.

Then in March 2009 she reinstigated their relationship, and they planned to sell their houses and buy one together.

Mr Williamson completed the sale of his house on Friday September 10 and moved in with Browning - the day the prosecution said she killed him. She claimed she murdered him the following day.

Judge Critchlow said: "I am sure that both when he first met her in 2007 and again after 2009 he wanted her to look after him, to cook and clean for him, and in return he was prepared to give her sums of money.

"The balance of power was in her favour in 2007 and again in 2010 because of his infatuation and wanting her to care for him."

Describing Browning as "devious", he said her explanation for the £140,000 money transfer after Mr Williamson's death was "incongruous".

"I am sure she hoped his body would never be found.

"For nearly a month she was able to keep up appearances and pretend he was alive by means of deception and forgery."

The court heard Browning had an entry reading "RIP" in her diary for Friday September 10, which she claimed actually read "RGP" - a company she cleaned for.

But the judge said her lies about it led him to think she killed Mr Williamson on the Friday, not the Saturday as she claimed.

He said it was unlikely Mr Williamson would have left Browning, as she claimed he had threatened to do, as he clearly wanted her to care for him.

"He wanted her to care for him and already put up with quite a lot from her and that's why he sold his house.

"I find it most unlikely that he was suddenly going to walk away from her and what she brought to his life."

Browning was today also made the subject of a Confiscation Order for £250,293 to be repaid as compensation to Mr Williamson's estate, Surrey Police said.

Detective Inspector Juliet Parker said: "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."

In a statement released through police, Mr Williamson's sister May Williamson said: "It was a terrible way for my brother to go. Mrs Browning obviously kept my brother under the thumb until he realised what she was up to.

"He was a quiet man who kept himself to himself. I was surprised when I found out that he was living with Mrs Browning."

Mr Williamson's nephew Peter Tierney added: "It is such a terrible thing to think that such a nice man died in such an awful way.

"It was a very sad ending as he loved life, loved his garden and loved his flowers."