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Thursday, January 5, 2023

The Brian Browning Sleeping Pill Murder Case

     Brian Browning, 51, lived with his 47-year-old wife Catherine and their two daughters, aged 18 and 20, in Skye, Australia, a suburb of Melbourne on the country's southeastern coast. Catherine worked for the Family Life Community Agency, an organization dedicated to fighting violence against women.

     After the couple agreed to an amicable separation on December 10, 2013, Brian, worried about his financial future, became distraught and couldn't sleep. His 20-year-old daughter Amy suggested that he see a physician. Instead, Brian purchased an over-the-counter packet of 20 Restavit brand sleeping pills.

     At six in the morning of December 19, 2013, Amy Browning heard her mother scream. At the bedroom door she encountered her father who stood in the doorway holding a bloody knife. Brian Browning, knife in hand, called his wife a bitch, dropped the weapon, and fled.

     Responding police officers discovered Catherine Browning lying in one of her daughter's beds. A forensic pathologist determined that the victim had been stabbed 15 times. Brian Browning greeted the police that morning in his garden outside of his house. "I've killed my wife," he said.

     Paramedics transported Mr. Browning to the Frankston Hospital for observation. The emergency crew noticed that he was wide-eyed and staring straight ahead. He did, however, respond to their questions.

     At the hospital Mr. Browning claimed to see ants and spiders crawling on the walls. With a rapid heart rate and elevated blood pressure, hospital personnel turned the murder suspect over to the police.

     The next day, while being questioned at the police station, Brian Browning said, "About six o'clock I talked myself into killing her. I went and got the kitchen knife. She was in my daughter's bed. I stabbed her. She woke up, screamed, then I just kept stabbing, stabbing, stabbing. I just spun out."

     According to the suspect, before he went to bed on the night before the killing he had taken four to ten of the Restavit sleeping pills. After the murder, Mr. Browning said he was so disgusted with himself over what he had done he took the remaining pills in an effort to kill himself. (Detectives recovered the empty pill packet.)

     On December 20, 2013, in the Melbourne Magistrates Court, Brian Browning pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder. The magistrate denied him bail and ordered a mental evaluation.

     In early April 2015 the Browning murder trial got underway in the Supreme Crown Court of Victoria with Justice Lex Lasry presiding. The defendant's barrister, George Georgiou, in his opening remarks to the jury, argued that the sleeping pills had rendered his client incapable of possessing the criminal intent to commit murder. The barrister characterized Mr. Browning's stabbing frenzy as involuntary behavior.

     Crown prosecutor Daryl Brown, after bringing police officers, detectives and the defendant's oldest daughter to the stand, put a medical expert into the witness box. According to the physician, four to ten sleeping pills should not have been enough to cause hallucinations or the other effects alleged by the defendant.

     On April 20, 2015, a witness for the prosecution took the stand and testified that at the time of the killing the defendant was about to collect a $200,000 settlement regarding a workplace injury, money he did not want to share in the divorce arrangement. Moreover, he did not like the idea of sharing the money from the sale of the house with his ex-wife.

     When it came time to put on his defense, Barrister Georgiou put Dr. Lester Walton on the stand. According to the psychiatrist, the Resavit pills contained the sedative Doxylamine which can make a person feel agitated. "In broad terms," the doctor said, "the more the person takes the more likely it is he might expect some form of adverse reaction." On cross-examination the psychiatrist admitted that he had never come across a case of Doxylamine induced psychosis.

     In his April 28, 2015 closing argument, Crown Prosecutor Daryl Brown told the jury that "whatever the defendant's thought processes were at the time of the killing, it was clear that he knew who he was stabbing. That shows awareness." According to the prosecutor, Mr. Browning killed his wife because "she was the person who was causing his world to be turned upside down."

     Defense barrister Georigiou, in his closing statement, pointed out that Restavit tablet overdoses have been known to cause psychotic episodes.

     On May 5, 2015, the jury found Brian Browning guilty of murder. That October, Judge Lex Lasry sentenced Browning to 18 years with a non-parole period of 14 years. The prosecution, on the grounds this sentence was too lenient under the circumstances, appealed. In 2016, the appeals court agreed. Browning was re-sentenced to 21 years with a non-parole period of 16 years.

1 comment:

  1. Nice criminal story! I read your blog and after reading it I felt that today’s people become heartless and aggressive form the condition which they can’t held. Thank you for share your blog. You did a great job by share the criminal story.

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