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Dad of girl (13) tells of relief as her killer is jailed for 33 years

Teenager Lucy McHugh was murdered by Stephen Nicholson
Teenager Lucy McHugh was murdered by Stephen Nicholson
Stephen Nicholson

By Ben Mitchell

The father of a young girl killed in a "brutal and ferocious" attack has spoken of his relief after her murderer was jailed for life.

Stephen Nicholson (25) was convicted following a four-week trial at Winchester Crown Court of the murder of schoolgirl Lucy McHugh (13), and three counts of rape when she was aged 12.

Sentencing Nicholson to life imprisonment with a minimum of 33 years, the judge, Mrs Justice May, said: "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."

Nicholson was also given 17-year concurrent prison sentences for each of the rape charges. He was further jailed for nine months to run concurrently for the offence of sexual activity with a child in relation to another girl, aged 14, in 2012.

The court heard the former care worker had previously been detained for holding a group of youngsters and staff hostage at a children's home.

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."

The defendant, described by police as a "predatory paedophile", lured Lucy to woodland at the outdoor Southampton Sports Centre on July 25 last year where he stabbed her 27 times in the neck and upper body. He carried out the "premeditated" murder to silence Lucy who had threatened to reveal his year-long sexual abuse of her while living as a lodger in her family home.

William Mousley QC, prosecuting, told the court that Nicholson had been jailed in 2010 for two years for holding staff and youngsters at a children's home hostage at knifepoint.

He said that at the age of 14 Nicholson, while under the influence of amphetamines, returned to the home where he was living late at night on December 16 2009, and armed himself with a number of knives.

Nicholson then took both adult staff members hostage and held a knife to the throat of a female worker before corralling the youngsters, including one with learning difficulties, into the same room.

The investigation into Lucy's death, described by the Crown Prosecution Service as "one of the largest in criminal history", was hampered when Nicholson refused to give police his Facebook password.

Detective Superintendent Paul Barton of Hampshire Police said afterwards: "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, with his sexual appetite."

James Newton-Price QC, defending, said: "It does appear the defendant, now aged 25, had a difficult background that is obvious from being sent to a children's home at the age of 13/14."

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