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Jury is told to return not guilty verdict on charge in Lucy McHugh case

A care worker accused of murdering schoolgirl Lucy McHugh after she told him she was pregnant today told a court claims he sexually abused the child were ‘nonsense’.

Stephen Nicholson said the 13-year-old’s mother Stacey told him that Lucy had been talking about him at school, but that social services had dealt with the matter.

The 25-year-old told jurors Lucy had been obsessed with him, following him around the house, taking his clothes and other possessions and writing notes about him.

However, Nicholson said at Winchester Crown Court that he had never seen any of these notes, one of which allegedly mentioned how much Lucy liked his beard. 

Lucy McHugh

Stephen Nicholson (left) is on trial for the murder of Lucy McHugh (right) in Winchester

Prosecutors allege Nicholson lured Lucy to secluded woodland on July 25, last year, where he stabbed her to death in a frenzied attack, inflicting almost 30 wounds.

He then allegedly fled the scene at the outdoor sports centre in Southampton, leaving Lucy to die from three ‘very dangerous’ cuts to the carotid artery in her neck.

Jurors were told Nicholson and Lucy had a blazing row just two days before her murder, during which she warned him she had a ‘hold on him’.

Then on the night before her death, he told police she had sent him a message on Facebook claiming she was pregnant, although she was not, and would tell people it was his baby if he did not meet her.

Prosecutor William Mousley QC has told the trial Nicholson started having sex with Lucy when she was just 12, with her writing diary entries and letters about it.

Giving evidence today at Winchester Crown Court, Nicholson denied murdering the youngster, who he claimed was obsessed with him. 

Talking about Lucy, the tattoo artist said: ‘We didn’t see eye to eye. She would follow me around the house, always getting in my way.

‘She would get involved in stuff that had nothing to do with her or that she was too young to be involved with.

CCTV of Nicholson on July 25, 2018 - the day on which he is accused of stabbing Lucy to death

CCTV of Nicholson on July 25, 2018 – the day on which he is accused of stabbing Lucy to death

‘I would get up early in the morning for work, she would get up and follow me around. When I was sitting on the stairs having a smoke, she would come and sit right next to me, up against me.

‘This was from 5am onwards. I started telling Stacey [White] and Richard [Elmes, Stacey’s partner], sometimes I would be quite rude to Lucy and tell her to go away.

‘Sometimes I would just slam doors to wake up Stacey so they would sort her out. It went on for ages.

‘I had been told something had been said [by Lucy] at school and that my name had been brought up. What was said though I don’t know. 

‘Stacey said she had had numerous calls with social services and my name had come up, but that everything had been sorted.’

When asked about the allegations against him, Nicholson said: ‘It’s nonsense.’

The trial has heard Nicholson sent an angry text message to 31-year-old Ms White complaining about the schoolgirl being ‘stalkerish’.

In the text, sent in May last year, Nicholson wrote: ‘Every time I come out my bedroom or the toilet your daughter tries to grab me. When I tell her to piss off she tries to push me down the stairs.

A pair of burnt red underpants discovered at Tanner's Brook in Southampton, near to the body of McHugh, which were shown to the jury at Winchester Crown Court during the trial

A pair of burnt red underpants discovered at Tanner’s Brook in Southampton, near to the body of McHugh, which were shown to the jury at Winchester Crown Court during the trial

‘Next time she does, I am going to throw her down them. Next time she puts her hand over my mouth because I have told her to f*** off, I am going down to her school and paying a group of girls to beat her up.’

During his evidence today, Nicholson was asked by his barrister James Newton-Price QC about possessions of his that had gone missing while living with Lucy and her family. 

Nicholson told jurors: ‘There was clothes, portable chargers that I used for work. Silly things.

‘I used to put my wallet in the kitchen draw at times and I had some money go missing. There was t-shirts, jumpers, jogging trousers, normal trousers go missing.

‘Stacey found some of my clothes in Lucy’s room.’

Reptile-lover Nicholson told jurors he had kept tarantulas, a gecko, pythons and a even a 9ft-long Boa Constrictor at the house he shared with Lucy and her family at various times during the year he lived there.

Nicholson is also charged with having sex with another underage girl, who was 14 when he gave her a tattoo and then arranged to go to woodland with her, close to where he allegedly killed Lucy.

Today he denied having sex with her, telling jurors he had only ever met her once, when he tattooed her. He added he had been fined for providing an underage girl with a tattoo, after her mother found out and reported him to police.

A pair of blue surgical gloves found at Tanner's Brook, near to the body of schoolgirl Lucy

A pair of blue surgical gloves found at Tanner’s Brook, near to the body of schoolgirl Lucy

The court today heard prosecutors had ‘reviewed’ the case heard so far in court and decided there was ‘insufficient evidence’ for one of the charges of sexual activity with Lucy when she turned 13.

Instructing the jury to find him not guilty of the charge, judge Mrs Justice May said: ‘It is absolutely standard at the end of the prosecution case for the Crown to review the evidence there has been.

‘Following that review, the Crown has determined there is insufficient evidence to support the charge at count six on the indictment for this case.

‘That being the case, I must now direct you to return a formal verdict of not guilty on that count.’

Nicholson also told the court Lucy was simply trying to ’cause trouble’ when she told him she was pregnant the night before he is alleged to have killed her.

The court heard Lucy sent messages to Nicholson on Facebook Messenger late on July 24 last year, telling him if he did not meet her she would tell her mum he’d got her pregnant.

Giving evidence today, Nicholson admitted he deleted messages between the pair and said he blocked her saying her claims were ‘nonsense’.

It was heard Lucy began contacting Nicholson’s Facebook accounts around 6pm the day before her death, sending the messages just before midnight.

Nicholson is appearing on trial for murder at Winchester Crown Court in Hampshire

Nicholson is appearing on trial for murder at Winchester Crown Court in Hampshire

Nicholson told jurors: ‘I received a message from Lucy saying she was going to tell her mum she was pregnant and I had done it if I didn’t meet her at Mansel Park, which was over the road from where my mum and Stacey and Richard lived.

‘[Lucy] was just making stuff up, trying to cause trouble. It was nonsense.

‘There was no reason for her to be saying it. From my memory, I wrote something back like ‘yeah, whatever’. I ended up deleting [the messages] and blocking her. I just thought it was Lucy trying to cause trouble.’

Nicholson conceded that Lucy had warned him she had a ‘hold on him’ days before her murder, but claimed it related to him dealing cannabis.

The 25-year-old said he had started to move out of the home he shared with Lucy, her mother Stacey and stepfather Richard Elmes days before the row.

When he returned to the home on July 22 last year – three days before Lucy’s death – to check on his reptiles, Nicholson today admitted the pair argued.

Asked by his barrister if Lucy had told him she had a ‘hold on him’ he agreed she had, but added: ‘It was referring to the cannabis.

‘I have used it for years and I sold a lot to people. In a week, I would sell more than £500 worth through Facebook, Snapchat, texts, phone calls.

‘There was an occasion where the tub I kept it in was out on the side. Lucy was saying she had found the cannabis and she probably said she was going to tell her mum.’

Nicholson, of Southampton, denies murdering Lucy, also from the city, and three charges of raping her when she was 12.

He also denies one count of sexual activity with her when she was 13 and a further count of the same charge relating to another victim, who was 14 at the time, in 2012. 

The trial continues.

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