Sussex

Robert Trigg jailed for life for killing two girlfriends

Robert Trigg Image copyright PA
Image caption Robert Trigg had denied manslaughter and murder

A man who killed two girlfriends five years apart has been jailed for life.

Robert Trigg was convicted of murdering 52-year-old Susan Nicholson in 2011 and of the manslaughter of Caroline Devlin, 35, who died in March 2006. Both were treated as not suspicious at the time

Trigg, 52, was told he would serve a minimum of 25 years in prison.

In a statement in court, Ms Nicholson's elderly mother questioned why she had been able to gather enough evidence to bring the case to court but not police.

Despite initial investigations into both deaths, in Worthing, West Sussex, finding nothing suspicious, Ms Nicholson's family refused to believe them.

They started what would be a five-year campaign to get to the truth.

Ms Nicholson's parents Elizabeth and Peter Skelton complained on three occasions to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) but were unsatisfied with its response.

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

In 2014 they hired a barrister and a forensic pathologist, Dr Nathaniel Carey, to re-examine the original pathologist's report.

He concluded that Ms Nicholson was suffocated by having her head forced into the bed.

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

In a victim impact statement read out in court, Mrs Skelton said the family wanted answers over why she and her husband, now both in their 80s, were able to bring Trigg's case to court and not the police.

She said the fight for justice had caused "mental torture" which triggered a mild heart attack in her and caused depression in Ms Nicholson's brother.

'Possessive, controlling and jealous'

During the sentencing hearing, judge Mrs Justice Ingrid Simler said Mr and Mrs Skelton had "fought doggedly and continuously since their daughter's death for the police to re-investigate her death".

She added: "The efforts of Ms Nicholson's family led to a review and re-investigation of her death and its cause."

Addressing Trigg, the judge said: "The grief and sadness of these two families will never leave them.

"These were senseless deaths and nothing can now restore their lives, nor can any part of this sentencing process restore them either."

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Media captionThe parents of one of two women murdered by Robert Trigg speak out

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

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

The Skeltons said officers had never warned their daughter about Trigg's history of domestic violence.

Sussex Police has apologised to both families of Trigg's victims for not presenting all the facts to prosecutors following the original investigation.

Asst Ch Con Laurence Taylor said: "I am sorry it has taken so long to get the justice they wanted."

The IPCC said it upheld two complaints into the way Sussex Police dealt with complaints about its investigation into Ms Nicholson's death. A third appeal was not upheld, a spokeswoman said.

Sussex Police has now referred the case to the IPCC for "an independent view and advice", Mr Taylor said.

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Media captionNeighbour calls 999 over Susan Nicholson's death

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

During his trial Trigg was described as "no more than a drunken slob who could act in a loutish way".

The court heard in both cases after the women died, a neighbour called 999 after Trigg failed to do so despite knowing they were dead.

In the case of Ms Devlin, Trigg had gone out for milk and made a coffee before telling one of her four children - then aged 14 - to go upstairs and check on his mother, knowing she was already dead.

In Ms Nicholson's case, he bought cigarettes before phoning his brother and then phoning a neighbour who lived upstairs.

Duncan Atkinson QC, prosecuting, told the jury Trigg's presence, actions and inaction after the deaths of both women bound them together.

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