Family launch legal bid for probe into police failings over double killer

The family of a woman murdered by a double killer have launched a legal bid to ensure a fresh inquest into her death probes police failings.

Susan Nicholson, 52, was murdered by her boyfriend, Robert Trigg, in 2011 – five years after he killed another lover, 35-year-old Caroline Devlin, in 2006.

Neither death was deemed suspicious by police.

Trigg was eventually jailed for at least 25 years in 2017 for Ms Devlin’s manslaughter and Ms Nicholson’s murder – but only after her parents, Elizabeth and Peter Skelton, spent six years and their life savings fighting for justice.

Robert Trigg court case
Susan Nicholson’s parents, Peter and Elizabeth Skelton, outside court (Tom Pugh/PA)

They are now facing another legal battle as they seek a judicial review to challenge a coroner’s decision not to question police officers as part of the latest inquest.

Given Trigg’s history of violence against women and his links to the earlier death, Ms Nicholson’s family believe police failed to protect her and that their actions should be questioned.

The family launched a crowdfunding page on Thursday morning to help pay for the cost of the legal challenge.

Ms Nicholson’s son Joe, 32, from Worthing, West Sussex, said: “I believe the police are responsible for her death and for knocking my life sideways in my 20s.

“Losing my mum had a massive effect on me.

“He would have killed again and again and I think the coroner should be investigating whether more could have been done to stop him.”

Robert Trigg inquiry
Robert Trigg is behind bars for at least 25 years (Sussex Police/PA)

After Trigg’s conviction, the High Court quashed the original inquest and ordered a new one.

Ms Nicholson’s family believe their concerns should be raised in a “full” inquest under Article 2 – the right to life – of the Human Rights Act, which can scrutinise the role of public bodies in a person’s death.

But West Sussex senior coroner Penelope Schofield denied the request, ruling that only a brief hearing over the death would take place and no witnesses would be questioned.

Mr Skelton said: “I do not believe Sussex Police did enough to protect Susan, given Trigg’s history of violence against her and the fact Caroline had died while in bed with him.

“We need to get to the truth as to whether our daughter was failed and whether Sussex Police recognised the danger that Trigg posed.”

Mr and Mrs Skelton previously accused the force of a “cover-up”, claiming they were “ignored and failed” when they had to spend more than £10,000 of their savings trying to convince the police to reopen the case, including hiring their own forensic pathologist to review post-mortem examination findings.

Trigg was in a relationship with both women when he killed them in their homes – which were barely two miles apart in Worthing.

At least two of the same police officers were involved in both investigations and were aware of his connection to the cases.

Trigg had a history of violence towards them and other women he met before and after.

Robert Trigg court case
Robert Trigg arrives at Lewes Crown Court (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Officers were called to Ms Nicholson’s flat six times in the weeks before her death over reports of violence, and one of his former partners was taken to hospital after he attacked her.

But the force did not find the similarities between the cases suspicious and treated Trigg like a bereaved lover rather than a suspect.

In 2011 coroner Michael Kendall ruled that former Coutts bank employee Ms Nicholson died accidentally after Trigg claimed he rolled on top of her unintentionally while they slept on a sofa.

His true “Jekyll and Hyde” possessive and controlling character was exposed at his trial when it emerged that he did not call the emergency services after the women died. Instead, he went to the shops to buy milk and cigarettes.

The force investigated its own officers three times and found nothing wrong with its original handling of the case before later agreeing to reopen it.

After Trigg’s conviction, police chiefs apologised for taking “so long” to get justice, saying the families would be offered compensation and independent inquiries would be carried out “without fear or favour”, adding: “It is important we learn any lessons and provide answers for the families.”

Last year, initial findings in one of those inquiries said the force may have “missed opportunities” when investigating the killings. The full report is yet to be published while separate inquiries continue.

Alice Hardy, partner at Hodge Jones & Allen solicitors who is representing the family, said that, despite Trigg being behind bars, many unanswered questions remained.

She added: “If it wasn’t for the determination and strength of my clients, Robert Trigg would never have been brought to justice.

“The only way we can get to the truth is with a full Article 2 inquest.

“As the coroner has refused this request, we have been left with no option but to commence judicial review proceedings.”

West Sussex Coroner’s Court has been contacted for comment.

To donate to the campaign visit https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/justice-for-susan

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