Sussex

Robert Trigg guilty of killing two girlfriends five years apart

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

A man has been found guilty of killing two girlfriends five years apart.

Robert Trigg, 52, was convicted of the murder of 52-year-old Susan Nicholson in 2011, and the manslaughter of Caroline Devlin, 35, in March 2006.

Trigg, of Park Crescent, Worthing, West Sussex, had denied the charges, claiming they had died in their sleep.

He will be sentenced at Lewes Crown Court on Thursday after a jury took six-and-a-half hours to reach its verdicts following a 10-day trial.

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The women's deaths at their homes in Worthing were initially treated as not being suspicious.

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

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.

Image copyright Eddie Mitchell
Image caption Robert Trigg failed to call the emergency services after the deaths of both women

Trigg, who declined to give evidence in his defence, blew out his cheeks as the verdicts were announced.

Suffered violence

Jurors were told both 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.

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

The trial heard both women suffered violence at the hands of Trigg during their relationships with him.

After one such incident, Ms Devlin said: "I won't be here for my 40th."

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

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Media captionThe parents of Susan Nicholson suspected Robert Trigg was guilty

The trial heard of "striking similarities" between the deaths, with both victims found in an unusual position and Trigg failing to call the emergency services, and getting other people to do it for him.

'Mental torture'

The family of Ms Nicholson refused to accept foul play did not play a part in their daughter's death, and launched a six-year campaign to get to the truth.

Elizabeth and Peter Skelton said getting justice had been "mental torture".

"We knew right from the start... there's no way two people could sleep on that sofa," Mrs Skelton said.

Mr Skelton added: "At the inquest they said Susan was lying on her back all night.

"There would be no room for anybody to sleep on their back or even lie on the rest of the sofa."

He criticised Sussex 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.

"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," Mr Skelton said.

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."

Police apology

Following the verdicts, Nigel Pilkington, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said Trigg had "a history of violence and controlling behaviour towards his partners".

"In the face of this, it was extremely unlikely that two of Trigg's partners had died of natural causes while sharing a bed with him," he said.

Det Supt Tanya Jones from Sussex Police said both deaths had been investigated at the time and post mortem examinations carried out.

"The forensic information available on each case at the times of the deaths did not provide any avenues for further investigation."

The parents of Susan Nicholson commissioned a review by a third pathologist and new evidence was presented to police, she said.

"On this fresh information we carried out a new thorough investigation including both deaths.

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

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