A review into Sussex Police’s investigation of the deaths of two Worthing women at the hands of serial domestic abuser Robert Trigg has been referred to a police watchdog.
Thames Valley Police’s independent review, which will see if Sussex Police missed any opportunities while investigating the deaths of Caroline Devlin and Susan Nicholson, has now been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
Robert Trigg, an unemployed man from Worthing, was sentenced to 25 years in prison without parole for the murder of Ms Nicholson in 2011 and the manslaughter of Ms Devlin on Mother’s Day in 2006.
Initially Ms Nicholson’s death was recorded as accidental following a coroner’s inquest, and Miss Devlin’s was recorded as natural causes. Trigg claimed he woke to find Ms Nicholson dead on the sofa, five years after he claimed he woke up to find Caroline dead in bed.
Both families of the victims had criticised Sussex Police for its handling of the investigations – and the force apologised to them after the sentence was announced.
Sussex Police has since commissioned three reviews into their investigations.
The case only went to court because Susan Nicholson’s parents Peter and Elizabeth Skelton spent £10,000 of their life savings to investigate Trigg.
Mr Skelton said: “What we know about the police and how they have dealt with us for the last six years, we don’t trust the police one little bit.
“We are just waiting to hear what they have to say, but we don’t trust the police.”
Anne Devlin, Caroline’s sister, said chief constable of Sussex Police Giles York visited her and her mother Jean after the court case to apologise. She said: “I said to him, it’s a bit late for an apology. If you had looked into it at the beginning, Caroline and Susan might still be here.”
During the trial last year, the jury heard evidence about Trigg’s long history of abuse and controlling behaviour towards women.
The court heard how in November 2003, more than two years before Ms Devlin’s death, Trigg was cautioned by police for punching and kicking his then-girlfriend in the head and face, which hospitalised her for three weeks. Click here to read more.
Regarding the review, Anne said: “It isn’t going to bring Caroline or Susan back. The police should have looked into Trigg’s past. Why did he get away with so much? That’s what I don’t understand.”
A spokesman from Sussex Police said: “At this stage we just want to emphasise that, as Assistant Chief Constable Laurence Taylor said last year, we are truly sorry it took so long to get justice, and it is important that we learn any lessons and provide answers for the families of Caroline and Susan.
“That is why we have commissioned the independent reviews.
“We have already voluntarily referred the Thames Valley Police review to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
“Both deaths are currently subject of an independent Domestic Homicide Review.
“The way in which the force responded to complaints received from the family of Susan Nicholson family will be subject of a review by Surrey Police, once the Thames Valley review and any police issues of police conduct arising from that have been addressed.
“The Thames Valley and Surrey reviews will be shared with the families of Caroline and Susan and will be made publicly available.”
A spokesman from the Independent Office for Police Conduct said: “At this stage I can confirm that Sussex Police has referred [the findings] to us, that it is with our assessment team.
“No decision has been made at present.”