Lucy McHugh, 13, was lured to her death by Stephen Nicholson who has today been found guilty of murder
A lodger who was taken in by a family before having a year-long sexual affair with their 13-year-old daughter then killed her when she threatened to expose their relationship, has today been found guilty of murder.
‘Cold and calculated predatory paedophile’ Stephen Nicholson lured schoolgirl Lucy McHugh to woodland near her home in Southampton before stabbing her almost 30 times then dumping her body.
The 25-year-old part-time tattoo artist and care worker had exploited the ‘vulnerable’ teenager for more than a year.
But he became concerned when their secret relationship – which begun when Lucy was just 12 – would be revealed and he would be exposed as a paedophile, so hatched a sickening plan to kill the teenager.
Cannabis-smoking Nicholson grew increasingly nervous after Lucy confessed her love to him, telling a friend she was pregnant with the tattoo artist’s baby.
Just hours after murdering Lucy on July 25 last year, Nicholson then texted her mother telling her to ‘keep her chin up and stay positive,’ adding, ‘I’m sure they’ll find her soon.’
In a text sent to Ms White, 31, Nicholson said: ‘I hope they find her safe. Police are good at their job and they will find her soon. Keep your chin up and stay positive.’
Little did Lucy’s mother know the man she had let into her home had been exploiting her teenage daughter, forcing his way into her bedroom and making her have ‘rough sex’.
Lucy had tried to tell her mother about her relationship with Nicholson but she was dismissed and told to ‘get back to her fantasy land.’
In harrowing diary entries, Lucy described how Nicholson took her virginity after the pair played a video game together at her home.
She also detailed how she locked herself in the bathroom to avoid having sex with him.
Throughout his trial Nicholson had even tried to blame Lucy’s parents for killing her.
Care worker Stephen Nicholson lured schoolgirl Lucy McHugh to woodland near her home in Southampton before stabbing her almost 30 times. The killer is pictured right on CCTV, carrying a Tesco bag filled with blood stained clothes
Stacey White, mother of Lucy McHugh, arrives at Winchester Crown Court today
Left, Richard Elmes, the stepfather of Lucy McHugh, leaving Winchester Crown Court yesterday and right, her father Andy McHugh outside court today
CCTV footage of the 13-year-old’s final movements which showed Lucy, wearing leggings and a white top, walking from her home in the direction of the sports centre as she was lured to her death at 9am on July 25, 2018
The court has heard Lucy suffered almost 30 knife wounds in a brutal, frenzied attack, with three ‘very dangerous’ cuts to the carotid artery in her neck which caused her death
‘He’ll rape me anyway’: Harrowing diary entry reveals how Lucy feared twisted killer
In sections of her diary, which were read to the jury, Lucy described how Nicholson took her virginity after the pair played a video game together at her home.
A diary entry from May 2017 describes how Nicholson paused the Call of Duty video game before pushing himself on top of her.
‘We started kissing,’ she wrote. ‘He said ‘I knew you liked me’. He said ‘do you want to do this?’ I nodded [and] he said ‘are you sure?’ and I nodded again.
‘He said ‘are you a virgin?’ I said yes. I kept thinking why wouldn’t I be, I am not a w***e.’
Other disturbing notes discovered by Lucy’s parents after her death revealed the extent of the alleged ordeal the schoolgirl was exposed to.
In a heartbreaking note entitled ‘abuse’, she wrote that he would ‘make me….rape me anyway’ and she also described how she was forced to lock herself in the bathroom of her home in Southampton, to avoid sex with him.
Describing one alleged incident, Lucy wrote: ‘I put my hand behind his neck, but he grabbed my neck tightly. It was sort of breathable.’
And in another entry, she wrote: ‘He grabbed my neck tightly. It kind of hurt this time. I told him and he said ‘good’.’
Lucy’s body was discovered by a dog walker on July 26 last year, less than 24 hours after vanishing from her home.
Internet searches from Nicholson’s Samsung device also show he had searched ‘what time is good to start a bonfire’ before allegedly destroying the trainers he had been wearing at the time of Lucy’s death.
Prosecutor William Mousley QC today told jurors the case against Nicholson was ‘compelling’ and the only obvious verdict was that he was guilty of the vicious murder and of having sex with the youngster.
The prosecutor dismissed Nicholson’s evidence during the four-week trial on the basis it ‘reminded me of an old blues song’ called Born Under A Bad Sign, in which singer Albert King describes having terrible luck from birth.
After killing the schoolgirl, Nicholson fled the scene, changing out of bloodstained clothes and dumping it in a small stream on the journey back to his home.
Despite admitting in court the clothing found in the stream, known as Tanners Brook, was his, he said he had ‘no idea’ how it got there, but added others including Lucy’s mother Stacey White and stepfather Richard Elmes both had access to them.
Lucy had told a friend she was in love with Nicholson, the court heard.
The school friend, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told Winchester Crown Court Lucy had confided in her that the defendant was becoming increasingly violent towards her including slapping her and trying to force his way into her bedroom.
The friend said Lucy told her that Nicholson was her boyfriend in October 2017, when she was aged 12.
The girl said in a police interview shown to the court: ‘She started telling me she was with a 24/23-year-old called Stephen.
‘I asked if them two had done anything because I was really worried. She told me he took her virginity but when she told me she looked uncomfortable and scared.’
The girl said she told her mother, who contacted Ms White, who rejected the claims as ‘fantasies’ and said they had already been looked into by social services.
The friend said Lucy described the situation with Nicholson as getting worse in the following months and that she was being treated badly by her mother and her partner.
Stephen Nicholson repeatedly stabbed 13-year-old Lucy to the neck and upper body at Southampton Sports Centre before leaving her to die in July last year
She said Nicholson was becoming increasingly violent including attempting to force his way into her bedroom.
The girl said: ‘Two weeks before she died she told me that Stephen was slapping her and getting more and more worse.’
She added that Lucy told her: ‘His weed-smoking was getting worse, he was trying to touch her, ‘He’s getting violent, he’s slapping me’.’
The girl said Nicholson became possessive over another boyfriend Lucy had and added that the defendant said ‘he would try to bash his head in’.
She said she advised Lucy to move out of the house to live with her grandparents.
‘She kept on saying she wanted to but she couldn’t. She kept telling me not to worry and she would sort it but I kept worrying about her because she kept not looking right and not acting like she used to.’
Describing Nicholson’s evidence in his closing speech at Winchester Crown Court, Hampshire, Mr Mousley said: ‘This is a case of lies and more lies in the face of an overwhelming case.
‘There were times during Mr Nicholson’s evidence that I was reminded of an old blues song called ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’. It’s a tale of someone who, through no fault of his own, was just always getting in trouble.
‘Although he will never say it, Nicholson hints there is someone else in the frame for this and that someone else at the family home wanted Lucy dead – but not him, this is all just a set up.
‘There was a judge who used to sit in these courts and he had a way of dealing with suggestions of theoretical possibilities. He would turn to the jury and say ‘when you get back to your room at lunch, there may be a polar bear in it’.
‘This case is signed, sealed and delivered to you, members of the jury. Whilst you may well feel a heavy responsibility, careful consideration and analysis of this case makes it entirely clear what happened.
‘There was no question of Lucy surviving the savagery of that attack. She was alone, on the ground, cut and stabbed many, many times.
‘The nature and the extent of those injuries clearly demonstrated that the person responsible for Lucy’s death wanted her dead.
‘It is, the prosecution say, a safe and sound conclusion that Lucy was killed and, it follows from that, Stephen Nicholson had a clear opportunity to be the one that killed her.
‘There’s evidence of him having a dislike for Lucy and a wish to hurt her.
‘There was a major incident on July 22, last year, just a few days before Lucy was killed, after which Lucy warned him she had a hold on him.
‘The letters, notes and diaries the police recovered went on to provide the most compelling evidence of Nicholson’s desire to silence Lucy. They make for hard reading.
‘The personal and private nature of these shows they are not meant to be broadcast in public or revealed to people. They were for her and him, those detailed descriptions of a sexual relationship.
‘You will remember the evidence of a friend of Lucy’s, who told you of Lucy’s excitement a starting a relationship, her description of losing her virginity and her saying she was in love.
‘But then it all turned sour, Lucy was scared and worried.
‘Mr Nicholson appears to accept that Lucy was vulnerable to sexual exploitation. She was someone people would disbelieve if she complained about something.
‘To a person who had an interest in sexual activity with young girls, she was an easy, accessible and safe target. Nicholson was such a person.
‘We will never be able to hear from Lucy about this and that is the point of this case. She was silenced so this could never be said. Nicholson had a motive for killing Lucy, to stop him being exposed for what he was.’
Nicholson, from Southampton, denied murdering Lucy and three charges of raping her when she was 12 years old. He also denied one charge of sexual activity with her when she was 13 and a second count of the same charge for having sex with another 14-year-old girl in 2012.
He was cleared of one charge of sexual activity with Lucy after prosecutors agreed there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to proceed further with it.
Police officers speak to neighbours as they search the family home in Southampton last year
Forensic scientist Jessica Adby said Lucy’s and Nicholson’s DNA was found on the blue Russell Athletic hoodie, pictured, which was found one mile away from where the teenager’s body was
A pair of blue surgical gloves found at Tanner’s Brook, near the body of schoolgirl Lucy