Parents of woman murdered by her killer boyfriend claim police failed to protect their daughter as they push for full inquest at the High Court
- Robert Trigg murdered Susan Nicholson five years after killed Caroline Devlin
- He was jailed for at least 25 years in 2017 for their manslaughter and murder
- Parents of Ms Nicholson claimed Sussex Police failed to protect their daughter
The parents of a woman murdered by her killer boyfriend have told the High Court the police failed to protect their daughter and their actions should be examined at a full inquest into her death.
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 initially deemed suspicious by police.
Ms Nicholson’s parents, Elizabeth and Peter Skelton, are bringing a legal challenge against the senior coroner for West Sussex over the scope of a fresh inquest into their daughter’s death.
In written documents before the court, lawyers for Mr and Mrs Skelton said the senior coroner was wrong not to order a full inquest into the death, arguing there were police failings in the case which should be examined.
Susan Nicholson (right), 52, was murdered by her boyfriend Robert Trigg (left) in 2011, five years after he killed another lover, 35-year-old Caroline Devlin, in 2006
Trigg, now 54, was jailed for at least 25 years in 2017 for Ms Devlin’s manslaughter and Ms Nicholson’s murder.
After his conviction, the High Court quashed the original inquest into Ms Nicholson’s death, which made a finding of accidental death, and ordered a new inquest be held.
The senior coroner for West Sussex ruled that this would be a fresh short inquest, with no witnesses questioned.
In written submissions to the High Court today, Heather Williams QC, barrister for Mr and Mrs Skelton, said the couple had argued to the coroner that the ‘circumstances leading up to Ms Nicholson’s death involved arguable breaches by Sussex Police’.
They said there should be 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
Ms Williams said the couple had argued the force had breached its duty to ‘take reasonable steps to protect against the real and immediate risk to life posed by Robert Trigg towards Susan Nicholson’ as well as its duty to ‘conduct an effective investigation into a death that may amount to the unlawful taking of life, in relation to Caroline Devlin’.
In her ruling last year, the senior coroner ‘indicated she was not satisfied there was an arguable breach of either of these obligations and that accordingly she was not obliged to conduct an Article 2 compliant inquest’, Ms Williams said.
Trigg, now 54, was jailed for at least 25 years in 2017 for Ms Devlin’s manslaughter and Ms Nicholson’s murder. Pictured: Trigg in 2017
Ms Nicholson’s parents are now challenging this decision at the High Court.In documents before the court, Ms Williams said the senior coroner’s decision was ‘unlawful’ arguing that ‘on the material available at this stage’, it is ‘plainly arguable’ that Sussex Police breached its duties.
The senior coroner is remaining neutral in the challenge.
Sussex Police, which is an interested party in the case, argues that Mr and Mrs Skelton’s claim should be dismissed.
Lawyers for the force claim that the senior coroner’s decision was not unreasonable.
Trigg is also an interested party in the case and is asking the court to make an order that the coroner reach her own conclusion on how Ms Nicholson died, and does not have to make a ruling in line with the murder conviction.
In her submissions, Ms Williams, for Ms Nicholson’s parents, said Trigg’s application should be rejected, arguing it is ‘designed to permit Mr Trigg to mount a collateral challenge on his murder conviction via the inquest process’.
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 Sussex Police 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.
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.
The High Court case, which is being heard by Lord Justice Popplewell and Mr Justice Jay, is expected to last for three days.
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