THE family of murdered Susan Nicholson branded Sussex Police’s initial investigation into her death “disgraceful” and her inquest a “sham”.

Their comments came as Robert Trigg was yesterday jailed for life for their daughter’s murder in 2011 and the manslaughter of Caroline Devlin in 2006.

Neither death was thought suspicious by police at the time, who were described as treating the killer like a bereaved lover rather than a suspect.

He was not questioned by police until November after Ms Nicholson’s parents spent six years and thousands of pounds investigating the deaths themselves.

Sentencing him to a 25-year minimum term for murder and a concurrent 11 years for manslaughter, high court judge Ingrid Simler described the deaths as “senseless and brutal”.

Trigg, 52, of Park Crescent, Worthing, had shown little emotion throughout the trial but frowned during the sentencing and sighed as he was taken down.

Judge Simler praised Ms Nicholson’s family for fighting “doggedly and continuously” for justice.

Mr Skelton, 83, of Goring, claimed he and his wife Elizabeth, 81, were not taken seriously by a string of public bodies.

He called for a public inquiry, for investigations and conclusions on other deaths in similar circumstances to be reviewed, and said he was considering taking legal action against the force.

Mrs Skelton, who had a heart attack during their campaign, said: “The fight still goes on. We still seek answers to unexplained questions. Why is it the police were unable to bring this case to court when we, Susan’s parents in our eighties, managed to?”

She said the couple had visited their “bubbly” daughter’s grave every week since she died.

Trigg claimed he accidentally rolled on top of the 52-year-old when they were both asleep on the sofa in Rowlands Road, Worthing, on April 17, 2011.

An inquest led by now retired assistant coroner Mike Kendall found her death accidental. But another pathologist reviewed the post-mortem and said she was suffocated by her face being pushed into the sofa. Her parents always maintained the sofa was too small for the couple to sleep on together.

Five years earlier Ms Devlin, 35, was found dead in bed on Mothers’ Day by one of her children in Cranworth Road, Worthing. Her death was not subject to an inquest because a routine post-mortem found she died of natural causes. A review found she died from a blown to the back of her head.

As Trigg was led into court in cuffs yesterday, reporters asked him why he allowed Ms Devlin’s children to discover her body.

He stopped, turned, and said cryptically: “Isaiah 50, verse 11: They should be in here, not me.”

Ms Devlin’s son Brandyn McKenna called him a “monster” who killed the “most precious and beautiful person the world had ever seen”.

Jean Devlin later said the sentence for her daughter was “not enough”.

Sussex Police apologised for the delay in getting justice for the families and referred how they handled the original investigations to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The court heard there was a row over money when the coroner told police a more thorough post-mortem on Ms Devlin should be carried out.

Yesterday West Sussex County Council, on behalf of the coroner’s service said, the final decision is made by the police who always foot the bill.

A spokeswoman said she understood the relationship between the two bodies in 2006 to be “good” and there was “no breakdown in trust or a row over money”, adding: “In all cases, if new evidence is received by the coroner then consideration will be given as to whether a review is required which includes historic cases. This has not yet happened in this case.”


PETER and Elizabeth Skelton should have spent the last six years enjoying their retirement.

Instead, they had to devote every waking moment, and £10,000 of their life savings, fighting for justice for their murdered daughter.

Yesterday they expressed relief her killer was behind bars but claimed the conviction was long overdue because they were let down by every public body they begged for help.

Mr Skelton, now 83, said the pair pleaded over and over again with Sussex Police to reinvestigate Susan Nicholson’s death and to look at the suspiciously similar passing of Caroline Devlin five years earlier.

He even claimed the force charged the family for phone calls between officers and their solicitor.

Vowing to never give up, they paid for a solicitor, barrister and independent reviews of the post-mortems by doctor Nathaniel Cary – one of the country’s most senior pathologists who was involved in the Hillsborough inquiry.

Only when they presented new findings, at their own cost, did the force take the investigation seriously, Mr Skelton said.

But he was satisfied the latest successful investigation, led by Detective Chief Inspector Tanya Jones, was conducted properly.

The elderly parents wrote regularly to the police professional standards department, to Chief Constable Giles York, to police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne and to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) but were “ignored”.

Mr York was deputy to Chief Constable Martin Richards at the time of Ms Nicholson’s death with Joe Edwards in the top post when Ms Devlin died.

The Argus asked to interview either Mr York or Deputy Chief Constable Bernie O’Reilly after the sentencing. The force put forward Assistant Chief Constable Laurence Taylor. When asked why Mr York was not available to answer questions yesterday, Mr Taylor responded: “I am a representative of the chief constable, I am a chief officer of Sussex Police, and it’s entirely appropriate that I come and represent the service.

“I am responsible for local policing and public protection in Sussex so it is important I’m aware of investigations of this nature and our response to vulnerable victims largely falls within my remit.”

He said he did not know “any detail” about the family being charged for phone calls by the police nor if it was force policy but he had “never heard of it”.

When asked if this would be looked at he said he did not think it was “relevant” but it would depend on the outcome of the IPCC investigation. Ms Nicholson’s family appealed to the IPCC three times in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The IPCC did not investigate how police looked at her death. But on two occasions it told the force to reinvestigate how it handled complaints made by the family on how the case was conducted.

The Argus also asked Ms Bourne and the West Sussex coroner for an interview but both only responded with a statement. Ms Bourne paid tribute to the family’s “fortitude and determination” and said her office had been in “frequent contact” with the Skeltons in the last 11 months, adding: “They have been offered the chance to speak to me. I would very much welcome the opportunity to meet and talk with them.”

Robert Trigg’s trial heard evidence of a “historic lack of trust” between the police and the West Sussex coroner and that a row broke out over a £4,000 bill if a more thorough post-mortem examination with a Home Office-appointed pathologist was ordered. It was not ordered, so the death was put down to natural causes which meant, by law, an inquest could not take place.

A West Sussex County Council spokeswoman, on behalf of the coroner, said by law inquests cannot take place where a death is deemed to be natural, adding: “This was not about money or a relationship breakdown between the police and the coroner.”


SUSSEX Police yesterday reiterated their apology to the victims’ families and said they had referred the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Assistant Chief Constable Laurence Taylor said: “I am truly sorry it has taken this long to get the justice they wanted. It is really important for the police service to continue to review and learn.”

He said he was unable to discuss the case in detail because it had now been referred but he would be personally overseeing what happens next.

He moved to reassure the public of the force’s ability to properly investigate crime and said their “thoughts and condolences” were with the families, adding: “It’s important we continue to question ourselves and review our procedures.”

After Trigg’s guilty verdict on Wednesday, the force said it was only “considering” reviewing the cases.

When asked what changed overnight, Mr Taylor said: “Nothing in particular, other than we think that for both the confidence for our communities and to get that independent review and advice we felt it appropriate to refer to IPCC for their view.

“We have now conducted a successful murder investigation following the new information coming to light.

“The IPCC will look at the appropriateness of when that came to light. We do take these matters seriously, we do listen and we constantly strive to be the best we can be.”

But he did not appear to accept the case should have been referred earlier.

When asked if he was confident this review would fully answer the family’s outstanding questions, he replied: “I guess you would have to ask the IPCC what their investigation will involve.”

He was also asked if other similar cases will now be reviewed.

To which he replied: “Until we understand what the learning is, it is really difficult to answer that question. If there is learning that comes from this that suggests we need to do a further review then of course we will take that on board and do what is appropriate.”