Man found guilty of killing two ex-girlfriends five years apart

A violent boyfriend has been found guilty of killing two ex-girlfriends five years apart following a long-running campaign by one of their families to get justice.

Robert Trigg, 52, murdered Susan Nicholson in 2011 as they slept on a sofa together, five years after he killed another partner, Caroline Devlin, 35, in her bed.

Both deaths in Worthing, West Sussex in the UK were not treated as suspicious at the time. But the family of Ms Nicholson refused to accept foul play did not play a part and launched a five-year campaign to get to the truth.

At Lewes Crown Court, unemployed Trigg, of Park Crescent, Worthing, UK was convicted of Ms Nicholson's murder and Ms Devlin's manslaughter following a 10-day trial.

Outside court, Ms Nicholson's father Peter Skelton told how his family had to hire their own experts to prove their belief she was murdered because police would not listen.

He criticised police, saying: "Their first investigation wasn't very good. That's why we had to get a barrister and a pathologist to back up our case because they wouldn't listen to us, even though we used to write them letters.

"We told them all the facts, even the facts that came out in court but the police still wouldn't listen, but in the end they had to listen."

The death of Ms Devlin, whose body was found by one of her four children on Mother's Day 2006, was originally recorded as being due to natural causes, an aneurysm.

And an inquest into Ms Nicholson's death ruled she died accidentally after Trigg claimed he inadvertently rolled onto her in his sleep while they were on a sofa.

But Mr Skelton refused to believe Trigg's account. He said: "The reason why we pursued it was because the sofa was too narrow for two people to sleep on, so how could he have suffocated someone in his sleep when he couldn't sleep on the sofa.

"He was such a big man that if he was on the sofa who could sleep on the outside? No-one. That's why we had to keep on pursuing it because we didn't believe the police's version."

Brandyn McKenna, the youngest son of Ms Devlin, said outside court: "We have always said that it was all down to the Skelton family that we finally got justice."

As Sussex Police apologised for not presenting all the facts to prosecutors following the original investigation, Mr Skelton refused to rule out taking civil action.

The trial heard both women's causes of death were re-examined years later by pathologist Dr Nathaniel Cary who concluded Ms Nicholson was suffocated by having her head forced into the bed.

In Ms Devlin's case, Dr Cary found her death was caused by a blow to the back of her head.

Trigg, who declined to give evidence in his defence, denied both charges. He blew out his cheeks as the jury returned its verdicts following six-and-a-half hours of deliberation.

The trial heard both women suffered violence at the hands of Trigg during their relationships with him. After one outburst, Ms Devlin said: "I won't be here for my 40th."

Trigg was described as a "possessive, controlling and jealous" man and by one former girlfriend as a "Jekyll and Hyde" character who drank heavily.

Ms Devlin's friend Bridget Benger told how her personality changed after she started a relationship with Trigg, describing her becoming "withdrawn" and having "lost her spark".

Three weeks before Ms Devlin's death, Ms Benger made a pact with her promising that if anything happened to them, they would support each other's children.

Ms Benger told how she found out about the discovery of her friend's body from Ms Devlin's eldest son who knocked on her door, telling her: "We can't wake mummy."

Similarities were highlighted about the two cases during the trial, including the revelation Trigg failed to dial 999 in either case after the women's bodies were found.

After Ms Nicholson died, Trigg instead went out to buy cigarettes, then called his brother Michael before phoning neighbour Hannah Cooper, telling her: "It's Sue, I think she's dead."

Ms Cooper said Ms Nicholson and Trigg had a "volatile and violent" relationship, with rows fuelled by alcohol, and police had been called at least six times following bust-ups between them.

The trial heard Trigg was treated at the time of Ms Nicholson's death as a bereaved partner rather than a suspect.

It was not until November last year that he was interviewed as a suspect.

On the night Ms Devlin died, one of her children heard the sounds of "rough and loud" sexual intercourse coming from their mother's loft bedroom, jurors were told.

The following morning, one of her other children went to ask Ms Devlin what she would like for her Mothering Sunday breakfast and saw her naked body on the bed, but thought she was asleep.

Trigg had left the house, but later returned and asked one of Ms Devlin's children to look at their mother as she laid upside down in the bed with her head deep into the duvet.

The alarm was then raised. No CPR was attempted as Ms Devlin was already dead when medics arrived.

The trial heard a number of police officers who attended believed her death was not suspicious.

Following the case, Detective Supt Tanya Jones, of Sussex Police, said "the forensic information available on each case at the times of the deaths did not provide any avenues for further investigation".

"However, we were presented with new evidence by the parents of Susan Nicholson, after they commissioned the assessment of a third pathologist who in 2015 examined the findings in the case of Susan Nicholson," she said.

"On this fresh information we carried out a new thorough investigation including both deaths. We then put the facts to the CPS who authorised prosecution."

She added: "Sussex Police are sorry that we had not presented all the facts before the CPS previously but we have now thoroughly investigated both cases."

Nigel Pilkington, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: "This was an extremely unusual case and required us to put together a compelling case in the face of initial pathology results that suggested the victims had died of natural causes. With the benefit of knowing the wider picture, this allowed the pathologist to now consider what else could have happened on those fateful nights, with the results telling a very different story.

Sentencing was adjourned to 11am on Thursday by judge Mrs Justice Simler.


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