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Lucy McHugh’s mother urges Facebook to release murder suspect’s password

Stacey White said detectives could uncover information vital to their investigation if they are allowed to read social media messages.

The mother of schoolgirl Lucy McHugh has urged Facebook to give police access to an account belonging to the man suspected of murdering the 13-year-old.

Stacey White said detectives could uncover information vital to their investigation if they are allowed to read messages sent and received by Stephen Nicholson before the teenager’s death.

The care worker, 24, was jailed for 14 months on Friday over his refusal to hand over the password to his account.

Investigators face having to take lengthy legal action in the US in order to obtain access, with the delay branded “deeply disturbing” by the head of the Commons Home Affairs Committee.

In situations like this, Facebook really should just release the information that is needed Lucy McHugh's mother Stacey White

Ms White has said unlocking the account would “certainly give police an idea of what was being said between Lucy and Stephen”.

“In situations like this, Facebook really should just release the information that is needed and I think that is the opinion that everybody has,” she told the Daily Mail.

“They should give over the account details. Lucy needs justice. It’s so easy for them to do.”

Nicholson, a father-of-one, was staying at Lucy’s family home in Southampton until several days before she was found stabbed to death in woodland on July 26.

According to prosecutors he had contact with the teenager as recently as the morning of her disappearance.

While being questioned on suspicion of murder and sexual activity with a child, he twice refused to give detectives his Facebook password.

This was an appalling murder, and Lucy McHugh’s family need justice Yvette Cooper, Home Affairs Select Committee chairwoman

Nicholson pleaded guilty to a charge under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) before his sentencing at Southampton Crown Court.

The court heard his excuse for refusing access was to protect himself and his family as there was information relating to cannabis on the account.

Prosecutors said police were facing a “lengthy procedure” in order to obtain access and the investigation into Lucy’s death had been “considerably obstructed” as a result.

Yvette Cooper, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, called on the Government and Facebook to create a fast legal procedure for such cases.

“This was an appalling murder, and Lucy McHugh’s family need justice,” she told the Mail.

“For there to be such long delays and cumbersome international processes for getting crucial information in such a serious case is deeply disturbing.”

Facebook told the paper it was “co-operating with Hampshire Police”.

Nicholson remains on bail for his arrest on suspicion of murder and sexual activity with a child.

A charging decision is anticipated on October 27.

A Facebook spokeswoman said: “This is a terrible case and our hearts go out to the family of Lucy McHugh.

“We are working closely with law enforcement and there are well-established legal mechanisms that the police follow to obtain information in criminal investigations like this.”

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