Sussex

Girlfriend murder accused Robert Trigg 'controlling'

Robert Trigg Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Trigg denies killing two girlfriends within five years of each other

A "jealous and controlling" lover killed two girlfriends, but their deaths were recorded as accidental or natural, a court has heard.

Robert Trigg, 52, of Worthing, denies the murder of Susan Nicholson and the manslaughter of Caroline Devlin.

Lewes Crown Court heard Mr Trigg said he accidentally rolled on top of Ms Nicholson while she slept.

Prosecuting, Duncan Atkinson QC said there were "significant similarities" between the deaths.

Both women were subjected to violence by Mr Trigg, Mr Atkinson told the court.

"Inquiries have revealed that the defendant has a history of behaviour towards other women with whom he has been in a relationship that shows him to have behaved in a possessive, controlling and jealous way," the prosecutor said.

Mother's Day death

Jurors were told after one alleged outburst of aggression by Mr Trigg, Ms Devlin "prophetically" said "I won't be here for my 40th".

The court heard Ms Devlin, a 35-year-old mother-of-four, was found dead in bed on Mothers' Day by one of her children at their home in Cranworth Road, Worthing, on 26 March 2006.

Jurors were told the child went to ask what she wanted for breakfast but saw her naked body and believed she was asleep.

Mr Atkinson said Mr Trigg had left the house but returned looking "dazed and being weird" before asking one of Ms Devlin's children to look at their mother as she lay upside down in bed with her head deep in the duvet.

The alarm was then raised.

At the time, a post-mortem examination recorded her death as being caused by an aneurysm, although there was no physical finding to support the conclusion, the jury heard.

Mr Atkinson said police officers who attended believed her death was not suspicious, but added: "Clearly, those officers were not in possession of the full picture."

Image copyright Family handouts
Image caption Jurors were told there were similarities between the cases of Caroline Devlin and Susan Nicholson

Five years later, 52-year-old Susan Nicholson was found dead on a sofa the couple had slept on in Rowlands Road, Worthing, jurors heard.

Mr Trigg, of Park Crescent, told emergency services he accidentally rolled on to her in his sleep, a theory considered plausible following post-mortem tests, the court was told.

Jurors were told a neighbour, Hannah Cooper, described the relationship as "volatile and violent", with rows fuelled by alcohol and police called at least six times.

Mr Atkinson said Mr Trigg had been cautioned in March 2011 for battery, in relation to a row with Ms Nicholson, who was punched in the face.

On the morning of 17 April 2011, the court was told, Mr Trigg bought cigarettes and then called his brother, before he phoned Ms Cooper and said: "It's Sue, I think she'd dead."

Jurors were told Ms Cooper dialled 999.

Mr Atkinson said: "At the time, as had occurred with Ms Devlin, the police treated the defendant as a bereaved partner rather than a suspect."

'Changed personality'

Jurors were told pathologist Dr Nathaniel Cary reassessed both cases and concluded Ms Nicholson was suffocated after having her head forced into the bed, while Ms Devlin's death was caused by a blow to the head.

Dr Cary, in a review of the original pathology, said: "It is very unlikely that someone asleep on a sofa with another could cause death in the manner proposed by simply rolling on to them."

Mr Atkinson highlighted similarities and said in both cases Mr Trigg was in a relationship with the women, that he and the women were intoxicated, that both died while he claimed they were asleep, and he did not dial 999.

Later, a neighbour told the court Ms Devlin's personality changed noticeably after she started a relationship with Mr Trigg.

Bridget Benger, a close friend of Ms Devlin, continued: "She became very withdrawn. She lost her spark and she seemed to drink a little bit more as well."

She said Ms Devlin's eldest son had knocked on her door and said "we can't wake mummy" and she went round to find Mr Trigg at the bottom of the stair, appearing "vacant" and Ms Devlin face down on the bed.

But under cross-examination, she also said Mr Trigg seemed to care for Ms Devlin and was openly affectionate towards her.

The trial continues.

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