Man who raped and murdered Lucy McHugh is jailed for 33 years

A care worker has been jailed for life for the ‘execution-style’ murder and rape of Lucy McHugh.

Stephen Nicholson was ordered to serve a minimum of 33 years for killing the 13-year-old schoolgirl, which he did to prevent others finding out he sexually abused her.

Nicholson, 25, was jailed at Winchester Crown Court this morning.

During the trial, the court heard how Nicholson lured Lucy into secluded woodland at the Southampton Sports Centre on the morning of July 25 last year.

There he stabbed her 20 times and even sliced wounds to her face, upper chest and forearms, using a single-bladed knife at least 7cm long.

Sentencing Nicholson, the judge, Mrs Justice May, told him: ‘This was a pitiless attack on a child following months of sexual exploitation.

‘The prosecution has described it as an execution and I am satisfied this is correct.

‘The combination of his cold narcissism and hot anger dictated that she had to be put out of the way and he saw to it that this was done.

’A jury found Nicholson guilty of Lucy’s murder and three counts of rape when she was just 12 years old.

Father-of-one Nicholson was also found guilty of sexual activity with a child in relation to another teenage girl in 2012.

He was acquitted of a charge of sexual activity with a child on multiple occasions when Lucy was aged 13.

 Mrs Justice May said Lucy’s life was one of ‘unknown promise’ until it was ‘cruelly obliterated’ by Nicholson.
She said: ‘Any sudden death is a tragedy, but the violent death of a child is particularly shocking.
‘A future full of unknown promise cruelly obliterated; all that potential unrealised. Lucy was described by her teachers as bright, bubbly, intelligent, eager to learn.
‘In the course of her evidence Lucy’s grandmother said their nickname for her was “Brains” because she was so quick.
 ‘But as a girl on the brink of her teens Lucy was also vulnerable and newly romantic; easy prey for someone with an interest only in satisfying his own appetites and no regard at all for the age of a girl who seemed to him to be sexually available.
‘The man who took Lucy’s life was just such a person.’ The jury heard how Nicholson had abused Lucy for more than a year while living as a lodger in the family home.
 Mrs May said Lucy developed a crush on Nicholson after he started to live at the house in 2017, which he also used as a base for tattooing clients.
But she added: ‘Instead of kindly rebuffing her, keeping his distance or indeed moving out, Nicholson encouraged Lucy and cynically exploited her interest in him.
 ‘She was available, in the house, in the bedroom opposite his, and he took full advantage.’

The night before her death, the teenager told her knife-obsessed killer that she was pregnant.

However, a post mortem examination showed that she was not expecting at the time of her murder.

Nicholson, who was described by police as a ‘predatory paedophile’, killed her to silence her when she threatened to reveal their sexual relationship, police said.

He lured tragic Lucy to secluded woodland before launching his frenzied attack, which included three ‘very dangerous’ cuts to the carotid artery in the schoolgirl’s neck.

Nicholson then fled the scene and Lucy’s body was found by a dog walker almost 24 hours later.
In the hours after the killing, Nicholson dumped the clothes he was wearing, described as his ‘murder kit’, in a small stream about a mile from the sports centre. He burned his trainers on a bonfire, claiming he had split them, and changed his mobile phone.

The investigation into Lucy’s murder was described by the Crown Prosecution Service as ‘one of the largest in criminal history.

’But it was hampered when Nicholson refused to give police his Facebook password, which stopped officials from uncovering communication between Lucy and her murderer.

Restrictive US and Facebook laws meant the British authorities had to apply to the US courts for access to his account. However, prosecutors only received a log of his account on the first day of the trial and it came without any details of the content.

Nicholson was jailed for 14 months last year for refusing to give police his Facebook password.

Facebook’s delay in unlocking Nicholson’s account has since prompted calls for reform from politicians and by Britain’s Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.

Nicholson was finally linked to the killing through DNA evidence found on Lucy’s clothing. Speaking outside court,

Lucy’s father, Andy McHugh, said: ‘I am happy with the result, at the end of the day he is serving life and unless he shows remorse he will never get out.’
As Nicholson was jailed for life, his violent past was revealed.

He was jailed for a total of three years as a teenager for two separate incidents, which illustrated his alarming early obsession with knives.

Ten years ago, Nicholson, then 15, took amphetamines and armed himself with knives before holding staff and residents at a children’s home hostage.

He then stole £1,000 while holding a blade to a female resident’s throat and made off in a staff member’s car, before being caught by police.

While serving two years in a youth detention centre for that incident, he and two fellow inmates barricaded themselves in a canteen before he again armed himself with a knife tried to stab a prison guard.

He was handed a further 14 months behind bars. Detective Superintendent Paul Barton, of Hampshire police, said after the murder trial: ‘I would describe Nicholson as cold and calculated, I would describe him as a paedophile and I think he is someone who only thinks about himself and has taken full advantage of this family that have looked after him, provided a roof over his head.

‘He has targeted Lucy, taken advantage of her and when she wanted a relationship with him, he has taken the decision to silence her once and for all by brutally killing her.’
A serious case review has been launched to probe the handling of Lucy’s case by Southampton City Council’s social services after they were alerted twice by her schools about her relationship with the defendant but decided to take no action.
Source: Metro

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