Police 'failings' to be considered at new inquest into death of Susan Nicholson

Jack Hardy
·3-min read
A fresh inquest will be held into the death of Susan Nicholson, who was murdered by her boyfriend Robert Trigg, after her parents won a High Court Challenge.    - Family handout/PA Wire
A fresh inquest will be held into the death of Susan Nicholson, who was murdered by her boyfriend Robert Trigg, after her parents won a High Court Challenge. - Family handout/PA Wire

The family of a woman murdered by a double killer have won a legal battle for a new inquest into her death to consider potential police failings. 

Susan Nicholson, 52, was suffocated by her boyfriend Robert Trigg in 2011, five years after he had killed another girlfriend, Caroline Devlin, 35, in 2006.

He was only brought to justice after years of determined campaigning by Ms Nicholson’s family, who refused to believe the police’s view that neither death was suspicious. 

Following Trigg’s conviction for Ms Nicholson’s murder and Ms Devlin’s manslaughter in 2017, a fresh inquest was ordered into the death of his second victim, which was initially recorded as accidental. 

Ms Nicholson's parents, Peter and Elizabeth Skelton, brought a judicial review to the High Court over a decision by the coroner for West Sussex to hold only a brief new inquest into the death. 

It was beset by complications after Sussex Police opposed the challenge - and indicated they would claim legal costs from the Skeltons if it was rejected - while Trigg was accused of trying to hijack the process in a bid to clear his name.

On Friday, however, Lord Justice Popplewell and Mr Justice Jay agreed in a ruling that the evidence could “credibly suggest” there were police failings and this should be examined in a new inquest. 

Susan Nicholson - FAMILY PHOTO/PA WIRE
Susan Nicholson - FAMILY PHOTO/PA WIRE

The Skeltons argued that Sussex Police failed in their duties by not conducting an “effective investigation” into the death of Ms Devlin and not taking “reasonable steps” to protect Ms Nicholson after officers were called to her address on at least three occasions in the months before her murder. 

Mr Skelton said the High Court ruling had taken “a lot off our minds”, telling The Daily Telegraph: “Every time we mentioned ‘could Trigg have done this on purpose’ the police would come up with an excuse - why would police keep on making excuses for him?

“Every time we tried to do something, they threatened us with money to try to stop us, whereas the police should do everything in their power to investigate the case.

“Since this has started our sleep has been disrupted, Elizabeth had a mild heart attack - over the years it has affected us. It’s changed our lives.”

A solicitor representing the couple said the ruling could help protect domestic violence victims in future. 

Alice Hardy, a partner at Hodge Jones and Allen, said: “The judgment is very helpful in setting out what investigative steps the police should take in this kind of situation, where somebody dies and an investigation needs to be carried out. 

“We will now also get a full inquest at which questions will be asked of individual police officers, senior police officers, about what was and should have been known about the risk to Susan, what was and should have been done to protect. 

“I hope this will cast a light on what Sussex Police should do in future to better protect people in Susan’s position.”