Robert Trigg was finally convicted of murder and manslaughter today after years pretending two of his ex-girlfriends died accidentally in their sleep
A domestic abuser was free to murder his girlfriend five years after he avoided jail for killing a previous lover because of a series of police failings, a pre-inquest was told.
Robert Trigg, 51, was able to spin a web of lies to convince police he did not kill former partner Caroline Devlin, 35, and it was ruled she died of ‘natural causes’ in 2006.
But just five years later, the chef violently abused and killed his new girlfriend Susan Nicholson, 52.
The chef told police officers he and Ms Nicholson had fallen asleep on the sofa and woke to find he had laid across her in the night and suffocated her to death.
Police believed he was a ‘bereaved lover’ and did not charge the alcoholic with any offence. An inquest recorded an ‘accidental’ conclusion into her death.
Yet Ms Nicholson’s parents, Peter and Elizabeth Skelton, refused to believe his story and hired their own investigators, including a barrister and pathologist, to look into the tragedy.
It was only when private investigators found Trigg’s former girlfriend, Ms Devlin, had also died mysteriously that the cases against him were finally reopened.
In 2017, Trigg was found guilty of the murder of Miss Nicolson and the manslaughter of Miss Devlin, and was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison.
The ‘accidental’ conclusion into Miss Nicholson’s death has been quashed by the High Court and a new inquest has been launched.
At a pre-inquest hearing today, Sussex Police were told Miss Nicholson could still be alive if they carried out a proper investigation into the death of Miss Devlin.
Heather Williams, a lawyer for Miss Nicholson’s family, told the hearing Trigg had a well-documented history of domestic violence towards women, which was readily available to police.
Mrs Williams said Sussex Police knew Trigg was cautioned for beating another former girlfriend ‘to a pulp’ in 2003.
Trigg claimed he had rolled onto Susan Nicholson and suffocated her as they slept on a sofa. But he was convicted of her murder after her father mounted his own investigation
Caroline Devlin’s children discovered her body after Trigg told them: ‘Something’s wrong with your mum’ as he left her bedroom in 2006. Her death was put down to natural causes until the investigation was dramatically reopened nearly a decade later
She said when Miss Nicholson died police databases showed Trigg had already responsible for violent attacks on at least three previous partners and knew Caroline Devlin had previously died in unusual circumstances.
Miss Williams said one former lover had told police officers Trigg was abusive and displayed ‘violent and delusional’ behaviour.
In the four months leading up to Ms Nicholson’s murder, she had been beaten by Trigg and officers had been called to the flat they shared six times.
Just two days before her murder, he had been cautioned by police for punching her in the face.
Double killer Trigg smirked as he was led into court in handcuffs this morning
Despite the history of violence Sussex police ruled out foul play.
Miss Williams said that when Miss Nicholson died in unusual circumstances alarm bells should have started ringing with police officers.
She said: ‘Police should have checked Mr Trigg on their databases which should have set alarm bells ringing. Susan Nicholson was not killed out the blue, there were these earlier incidents.
‘There was a real and immediate risk to Susan Nicholson’s life. There was a pattern emerging. It seems noone joined the dots.’
Ms Williams told the pre-inquest there was a caution for assault on his record and that a Home Office pathologist should have conducted a post mortem on Miss Devlin which would have shown up a severe injury on the base of her skull.
Sussex Police has already exonerated its own officers three times prior to it being examined by Thames Valley Police in an independent review.
Gilly Jones, lawyer for Sussex Police said: ‘I think we are aware of missed opportunities and there are things we could have done better.’
But she said the inquest must examine with these could be considered ‘serious failings’ in light of what police knew at the time.
The pre-inquest hearing was adjourned until May 8.
Miss Nicholson’s father Peter (right) and his family fought for years to bring Trigg to justice. He slammed police for failing to properly investigate