COUNTY NEWS: Court hears how son found body of his ‘happy, joyful’ mother

Robert Trigg arrives at Lewes Crown Court before his murder trial. Picture: Eddie Mitchell
Robert Trigg arrives at Lewes Crown Court before his murder trial. Picture: Eddie Mitchell

A man who discovered his mother’s dead body on Mother’s Day described her as ‘cheerful and joyful’ at her former partner’s trial.

Robert Trigg, from Worthing, Sussex, is accused of the manslaughter of Caroline Devlin, whose body was found on March 26, 2006, and the murder of his partner Susan Nicholson, in 2011. He has denied both charges.

At Lewes Crown Court today, Jordan McKenna took to the witness stand and recalled finding his mother’s dead body.

He held back tears as he told the jury how he and his three siblings were planning to cook her breakfast before her body was discovered at their home in Cranworth Road, Worthing.

The court heard how the family had watched the film Ice Age and eaten spaghetti Bolognese the night before she died.

Mr McKenna said: “She seemed happy, cheerful, joyful. We were messing around in the living room, just playing around and having a laugh.”

Trigg was there that evening, and the court heard how he and Miss Devlin went to neighbour Alan Jones’ house for a drink later that night.

The next morning, Mr McKenna recalled Trigg, 52, being sat at the top of the stairs leading to Miss Devlin’s loft bedroom, fully dressed and wearing a jacket with a cup of tea or coffee next to him.

The court heard he ‘calmly’ said ‘I think there is something wrong with your mum’, and let the 14-year-old into the room to discover his mother was dead. The court heard her head was at the foot of the bed with her legs by the headboard – a position Mr McKenna said was out of character.

Mr McKenna said he ‘panicked’ and ran next door to alert his neighbour Mr Jones, who dialled 999. He said he partially covered his mother’s body with a sheet to spare her dignity.

The court heard how the 35-year-old had moved with her children from Scotland to Worthing after separating from their father.

Miss Devlin, who worked at Worthing Football Club’s ‘snack shack’, was due to start a new job at the probation service the day after she died.

In a statement read in court, her daughter Codie McKenna said she ‘would never forget’ the date of her mother’s death because it was the day before her 11th birthday. After being taken to her neighbour Bridget Benger’s house, she remembered being given one of her birthday presents from her mother to play with while paramedics and police officers were in her home.

She said: “It only struck me that mum was never going to come back when we were asked to pick out some clothes for her [funeral].”

Miss Devlin’s daughter Gemma McKenna also wrote a statement which was read in court.

She said she ‘took an instant dislike’ to Trigg when she met him, aged 14, in 2003, adding he was ‘sullen and depressive’ and made no effort with her or her siblings.

On the day her mother died, she said she had heard loud noises coming from her mother’s bedroom in the early hours of the morning, before everything went quiet.

Yesterday, prosecutor Duncan Atkinson QC said it was ‘unlikely in the extreme’ that both Miss Devlin and Miss Nicholson could die of natural causes – as was found at inquests after their deaths – and in similar circumstances while sleeping with him, especially given his history of violence towards his partners.

Miss Nicholson, 52, was found dead on a sofa at her flat in Rowlands Road, Worthing, on April 17, 2011. Trigg claimed he accidentally smothered her by rolling on top of her in his sleep.

The case continues.