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‘Possessive, controlling’ man killed two ex-girlfriends, court hears

A “possessive, controlling” man killed two of his ex-girlfriends five years apart, with their deaths recorded at the time as being caused by accidental or natural causes, a court has heard.

Robert Trigg, 52, is accused of murdering 52-year-old Susan Nicholson, whose body was found on a sofa they had both slept on in Rowlands Road, Worthing, West Sussex, on 17 April 2011.

Trigg is also charged with the manslaughter of another former girlfriend, Caroline Devlin, 35, who was found dead in bed on Mothers’ Day by one of her children as they went to ask what she wanted for breakfast at home in Cranworth Road, Worthing, on 26 March 2006.

Lewes crown court heard a post-mortem examination at the time recorded Devlin’s death as being caused by natural causes – an aneurysm – although there was “no physical finding” to support the conclusion.

In the case of Nicholson’s death, Trigg told emergency services she had died after he had accidentally rolled on to her in his sleep while they were on a sofa – a theory considered “plausible” after the post-mortem test was held at the time.

Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson QC said that when viewed in more depth, the circumstances of each death became different and “significant similarities” between each woman’s death emerged.

Atkinson said: “The prosecution case is that there is no coincidence here of two natural or accidental deaths.

“Rather, the prosecution case is each of Caroline Devlin and Susan Nicholson were unlawfully killed by the person common to their lives and to the death of each, namely this defendant.”

Trigg, of Park Crescent, Worthing, denies murder and manslaughter.

The trial heard that after both causes of death were reassessed by pathologist Dr Nathaniel Cary, he concluded Nicholson was suffocated after having her head deliberately forced into the bed.

He also found that mother-of-four Devlin’s death was caused by a blow to the back of her head.

Jurors were told that both women had been subjected to violence during their relationships with Trigg.

“Indeed, inquiries have revealed that the defendant has a history of behaviour towards other women with whom he has been in a relationship that shows him to have behaved in a possessive, controlling and jealous way,” Atkinson said.

The court heard that following one alleged outburst of aggression by Trigg, Devlin “prophetically” said: “I won’t be here for my 40th.”

Jurors were told that Trigg did not call the emergency services following the deaths of both women.

His account of both fatalities “raised more questions than it answered”, Atkinson said.

On the night Devlin died, one of her children heard the sounds of “rough and loud” sexual intercourse coming from their mother’s loft bedroom.

The following morning, one of her other children went to ask Devlin what she would like for her Mothering Sunday breakfast and saw her naked body on the bed but thought she was asleep.

Atkinson said Trigg had left the house but later returned looking “dazed and being weird” before asking one of Devlin’s children to look at their mother as she laid upside down in the bed with her head deep into the duvet. The alarm was then raised.

No CPR was attempted as Devlin was already dead when medics arrived, the court heard.

Atkinson said a number of police officers who attended believed her death was not suspicious.

“Clearly, those officers were not in possession of the full picture now available, and the prosecution say that their opinion was incorrect,” he said.

The trial continues.