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Lucy McHugh: Murdered schoolgirl's father condemns 'cruelty and violence' against 'defenceless little girl"

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The father of murdered schoolgirl Lucy McHugh has condemned her killer’s “cruelty and violence against our defenceless little girl”.

Andy McHugh said that Stephen Nicholson’s “evil desire for sexual gratification” led to the “brutal destruction” of his daughter, 13.

Stephen Nicholson, 25, showed no emotion as he was convicted of her murder as well as three counts of rape when she was aged 12.

Mr McHugh said care worker Nicolson “stole Lucy’s life away from her and us” as he spoke out for the first time after the conviction.

Lucy McHugh was raped and murdered by care worker Stephen Nicholson (PA)

He said: “This has been and still is one of the hardest times of our lives. We have been fortunate to have a fantastic support network who have supported us through this time.

“My family are extremely grateful that the jury has come back and found Nicholson guilty, but no sentence will be long enough for him.

“He stole Lucy’s life away from her and from us, she will never go to prom she will never get married she will never have children, she will never grow old, we will never be reunited.

“She had her whole life ahead of her.

Stephen Nicholson appears in CCTV footage from July 2018 (PA)

He condemned Nicholson’s “evil desire for sexual gratification and his brutal destruction of her [Lucy’s] life.”

Mr McHugh added: “We still do not know how to come to terms with someone committing such cruelty and violence against our defenceless little girl.

“We still continue to seek ways to process our immense pain and loss. The pain still hurts as much as it did when I found out. We are learning new ways to cope with the pain.

“I still find it very hard coming to terms to with the fact my daughter has been laid to rest before me, it should be the other way around, my children should be laying me to rest.”

The murder investigation was hampered when Nicholson refused to reveal his Facebook password.

Police had to wait months before the social media giant handed over details of communications between him and Lucy.

This prompted calls from senior police and politicians for detectives to be given quicker access to social media accounts when investigating serious crimes.

A probe has also been launched into the handling of the case by social services after two schools alerted them that Lucy had told teachers she had been in a relationship with the defendant.

After the verdict, Lucy’s mother Stacey White, 31, thanked friends and family and police who helped bring the killer to justice.

In an emotional statement following the welcomed verdict, she said: ‘I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart our close family and friends for their support during this harrowing time.

‘The dedication of Hampshire Constabulary, the specialist teams across the country and the local community helped get justice for my precious daughter Lucy.’

Lucy was lured by Nicholson to woodland at the outdoor Southampton Sports Centre on July 25 last year where he stabbed her 27 times in the neck and upper chest.

Nicholson has been described by police as a “predatory paedophile” who had abused the “vulnerable” youngster for more than a year while living as a lodger at her family home.

He then killed her to silence her when she threatened to reveal their sexual relationship.

She had also said that she would tell her mother that Nicholson had got her pregnant, although a post-mortem examination showed that she was not pregnant at the time of her death.

Nicholson is understood to have been living with the family in the months before the teen’s death and was a colleague of Lucy’s mother, Stacey White, a careworker, as well as a part-time tattooist.

The trial heard that Nicholson, described by police as a “predatory paedophile”, had abused Lucy for more than a year while living as a lodger at her family home.

William Mousley QC, prosecuting, described the murder as premeditated and an “execution-style” killing.

Detective Superintendent Paul Barton, of Hampshire police, said after the 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.”

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