Inquest finds Sussex Police failings contributed to the death of Susan Nicholson

Susan Nicholson was killed by her then partner, Robert Trigg in 2011. Six years earlier he had killed another partner, Caroline Devlin. Police treated both deaths at the time as non-suspicious. After years of campaigning by Susan’s parents, Peter and Elizabeth Skelton, a police re-investigation was commenced in 2016, which led to Robert Trigg’s conviction for Susan’s murder and Caroline’s manslaughter in 2017. After the original inquest verdict of accidental death was quashed, the Coroner proposed to hold a short inquest that merely recorded Susan had been unlawfully killed. This was successfully challenged last year in judicial review proceedings brought by Susan’s parents as a breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights: R (Skelton) v Senior Coroner for West Sussex [2020] EWHC 2813 (Admin).

The fresh inquest held over the last fortnight examined police actions in the aftermath of Caroline’s death, the available information of Robert Trigg’s violence towards a succession of other past partners and the police response to escalating domestic abuse incidents involving Susan. The jury unanimously concluded that Sussex Police had information that should have alerted them to the fact that Robert Trigg posed a real and immediate risk to Susan Nicholson’s life and that police failed to take reasonable steps to protect her. The jury also found that there were significant failings in the investigation following the death of Caroline Devlin.

Heather Williams QC acted for Susan Nicholson’s family in the judicial review proceedings and at the recent inquest. She was instructed by Alice Hardy and Fiona Bowen of Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors, who thanked Heather for “her extraordinary advocacy and dedication to this case” in their press release.

Media coverage includes: BBC, ITV.