This thread was uploaded to Twitter on 30 July 2019 by @CCCBuryStEd and details the outright failings by @sussex_police to investigate properly the murder of Susan Nicholson by her then boyfriend Robert Trigg, who had a long history of violence and abuse against his partners. Her parents, now in their 80s, and two children are trying to raise £5,000 for a full judicial review into the failings by the police.
Susan Nicholson was found dead, on her sofa on 17th April 2011. Her boyfriend, Robert Trigg had left the flat he shared with Susan, and walked to the newsagent to buy a pack of cigarettes. On his way home, he called his brother Michael and told him that Susan was dead.
Instead of calling 999, he then called a neighbour, and told her the same thing. In the end, she stood with him and made the 999 call on his behalf. On the audio recording, Trigg can be heard saying “I think … could be suffocation,”
Trigg told them that after a night of heavy drinking, he and Susan had fallen asleep on the sofa and he had woken up to find himself on top of her. Her face was purple. He thought she was dead, he told the police. But he panicked and so went to the shops.
The pathologist conducted a postmortem and his findings confirmed it: the cause of death was likely to have been a mix of accidental smothering and the effects of intoxication. The police concluded that the death was not suspicious.
BUT… Trigg had previously been cautioned for assaulting Susan. AND 5 years earlier, Trigg had been in a relationship with a woman who had also died suddenly. AND THE POLICE KNEW ABOUT THIS.
Caroline Devlin died in 2006. It was Mother’s Day. Caroline’s body was discovered by her ten-year-old, after Trigg had said there was something wrong with the mother. Trigg did not call for an ambulance, he left it to Caroline’s children to do so.
The police knew that Trigg had been cautioned for assaulting another former girlfriend, Susan Holland, whom he had dated in 2003. But they did not see Devlin’s death as suspicious as a forensic pathologist, had concluded that the 35-year-old had died of an aneurysm.
Trigg’s previous relationships seem to all have been violent: A previous relationship ended in 2002 after nearly a decade because of his drinking and violent outbursts.
In 2003, he accused a girlfriend of sleeping with a neighbour. He beat her, kicking her in the head and face. She spent three weeks in hospital and Trigg was later convicted of assault.
In October 2014 he began another relationship. When the relationship broke down, he send more than a hundred abusive messages and phone calls. In November 2016, he was convicted of harassment and handed a restraining order. She was so terrified of him, she left the area.
In August 2016 he entered another relationship and when this ended, he too sent her many abusive text and voicemail messages. On 21 December 2016 he turned up drunk at the homeless charity shop where she worked.
He shouted grabbed her by the arm, pushing her, then followed her into a back room of the shop and pushed her, causing her to fall into a door. He was arrested and later pleaded guilty to assault, harassment, and racially aggravated harassment and was jailed for 12 weeks.
Susan Nicholsons’ parents were suspicious of Trigg, because of his violent past and because the sofa in question was too small for a couple to sleep on. They criticised the original investigation by Sussex Police, asking for their daughters’ death to be reinvestigated.
In March 2012, an article under Trigg’s name appeared in Take a Break magazine. Under the headline “Killed By a Cuddle”.
In May 2012, Susan’s parents wrote to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The IPCC recommended that Sussex police investigate the complaint and review the investigation.
They received a report dated 3 October 2012 which concluded the investigation had been satisfactory. There was no mention of Trigg’s history of violence, nor of Devlin’s death.
On 8 October 2012, Susan’s parents wrote to the IPCC again. In May 2013, the IPCC upheld the complaint and, once again, recommended that Sussex police reinvestigate. Again, a Sussex police report, concluded that the force had conducted a satisfactory investigation.
This report revealed new details: 1. One of the officers had been “particularly frustrated” and had asked several colleagues why Trigg had not been arrested. 2. Two days after Susan’s death, a senior officer decided that it would not be “advantageous” to arrest Trigg.
The report acknowledged FOR THE FIRST TIME that “the previous records of domestic violence” were considered. It revealed Trigg had admitted on the day of Susan’s death his arrest for domestic violence 4 weeks previously AND
On the day of Susan’s death, the DI was aware that Trigg’s previous partner had died – and that, just as with Susan, “he did not notice she was dead until the morning”.
In December 2013, the IPCC recommended again that the police reinvestigate. Almost another year later, in October 2014, Susan’s parents received another police report declaring the investigation satisfactory.
The report also revealed that the PC had been part of the initial response to Caroline Devlin’s death five years previously. The coroner’s officer on Susan’s case, responsible for liaising with the police, had also been assigned to the Caroline Devlin’s case.
So in January 2015, after their fourth Christmas without their daughter, Susan’s parents approached a solicitor, Hannah Bennett, who took on the case and appointed a barrister, Matthew Farmer.
A Home Office forensic pathologist who had worked on a number of high-profile cases, including the Hillsborough disaster and the poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was instructed to look again at Nicholson’s and Devlin’s deaths. The report was damning.
“In my opinion … accidental airway obstruction must be the least likely possibility in this case. In terms of the proposed positions on the sofa, this is not a matter of expert evidence but as a matter of common sense there must have been very limited space for two individuals”
“In my career, I have never previously encountered a case where accidental death was thought to have happened in the manner apparently accepted in this case.” The pathologist concluded the injuries suggested “traumatic asphyxia”. Susan had been suffocated, possibly strangled.
In all the time the police had been rebuffing Susan Nicholson’s parents, Trigg had remained a free man. Free to continue his reign of abuse
On 5 January 2016, Trigg pleaded guilty to an offence of harassment. But, even so, it was not until the police received the report from the pathologist that they decided to reopen the Susan Nicholson’s case.
While out on police bail, in 2016, Trigg sent his girlfriend more than 100 abusive messages, some of which included racial slurs. “You are an Irish cunt, with your Irish black hair and ugly body,” he wrote in one message. On the 21 December, he turned up and was arrested.
On 30 March 2017, he pleaded guilty to offences of assault by beating, harassment and racially aggravated harassment upon Yarwood. But he denied killing Susan Nicholson and Caroline Devlin.
His denial failed to convince the jury at Lewes crown court. On 6th July 2017, after a 10-day trial, the jurors convicted the 52-year-old in just six hours. Susan’s parents had spent more than £10,000 to get to this point.
Susan’s family now want an inquest to look properly at whether the police could have prevented Susan’s death, so that this does not have to happen to other families. They have set up a crowdfund:
Please read and share and donate to ensure that lessons actually WILL be learnt. Thank you.
Sussex Police have also been recently criticised after teen Shana Grice was murdered by her ex boyfriend Michael Lane after a campaign of harassment. A full judicial review is likely to expose more of the force’s failings towards victims of domestic violence so please share as widely as possible.