A CARER raped and “viciously” murdered a 13-year-old girl after she told him she was pregnant following their secret year-long sexual relationship, a court heard.
Lucy McHugh bled to death after being left with catastrophic knife wounds in woodland nearly two miles away from her Southampton home in July last year.
Stephen Nicholson, 25, is accused of knifing Lucy in the neck and upper body before leaving her to die after she warned she had a “hold on him” because of their illicit relationship.
He denies three charges of rape against Lucy when she was 12 and two charges of sexual activity with a child when she was aged 13.
Nicholson also denies sexual activity with a 14-year-old girl five years before he allegedly murdered Lucy.
He had been living with with the family when he “exploited” vulnerable Lucy and began a secret sexual relationship in May 2017 with her when she was 12 and he was 23, at Winchester Crown Court heard.
The carer, who also worked as a tattooist, told cops Lucy had messaged him the night before her death saying she was pregnant, it was said.
He explained to police the teenager had told pals she was pregnant, but she later said that she had been referring to her mother being pregnant, the court heard.
Jurors heard she kept detailed diaries about their sex life – writing it had become “increasingly violent” with Nicholson grabbing her neck.
A few days before the teen’s death, Nicholson told a pal she was trying to get him thrown out of the family home in Southampton where he had been lodging for a year, it was said.
William Mousley QC, prosecuting, said the pair had a “big argument”, with Lucy shouting at him “this is all your fault” and “I’ve got a hold on you anyway”.
‘SECRET SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP’
Jurors heard Lucy’s family were aware of rows between the teenager and Nicholson – but believed it was because of Lucy’s romantic feelings towards the care worker.
The prosecutor said: “He had a bedroom opposite Lucy’s. It was clear to family members and visitors there were problems between Nicholson and Lucy which led to arguments which were getting worse in the lead up to her death.
“As a response, one or the other would then stay away from the home. To those who witnessed this, they saw the cause being the behaviour of Lucy towards Nicholson.
“She was wanting his attention, as if she had a crush on him. However, as the investigation continued there was another explanation which was kept secret from her family.
“That concerned a sexual relationship which began in May 2017 and continued for more than a year between a 23- or 24-year-old man and a 12- to 13-year-old girl over a period the prosecution say she was vulnerable to that exploitation.”
In one of her diary entries, she wrote: “Dear Jackass, Last night was amazing, Stephen and I slept together multiple times.
“Mr Stephen Nicholson took my virginity, it was mainly intercourse but there was also oral.”
But the court was told as the sex became more “violent”, her mum’s partner Richard Elmes found a note called ‘Abuse’ that had gone through the washing machine which stated: “He would make me or rape me anyway.”
She had also written a letter, stating: “To Stephen, I need a break from whatever we are because I am not in the right mind for what we are now. You are a complete ass unless we are having sex.”
Jurors heard other entries during the alleged year-long relationship about the pair making arrangements to meet for sex and about sending naked photos to each other.
But Nicholson claimed that Lucy’s diaries and allegations were the “fantasies of a 12/13-year-old girl”.
On July 25, Lucy left the home in Southampton at about 9am after telling her brother she was meeting a friend and would be home later.
Several CCTV cameras captured her walking to her death – with the last a Tesco CCTV camera showing her at 9.30am as she allegedly went to meet Nicholson in woodland at Southampton Sports Centre.
Nicholson meanwhile was captured on CCTV on his bike heading to a Tesco Express where he bought Doctor Pepper, some cider, three packets of Lambert and Butler Blue and a Bag for Life.
At around 9.45am, CCTV of a man, which the prosecution alleges is Nicholson, is seen on a dark bike in the Sports Centre, jurors were told.
Lucy’s body was found the next day by a dog walker in woodland at a sports centre – with her bloody clothes dumped in a small stream nearby.
She had been stabbed repeatedly with a 7cm blade by someone who “intended to kill her”, the court was told.
LUCY ‘REPEATEDLY STABBED IN NECK’
Mr Mousley said: “She was repeatedly stabbed to the neck and upper body and bled to death as a result. The killer, who the prosecution say was Stephen Nicholson, then left her either dying or dead in a hidden area and made his escape.
“The investigation enabled a complete picture to be established of events and the behaviour of Stephen Nicholson before, during and after the day of the murder which makes for a compelling case.
“A range of evidence led to the obvious conclusion that he was responsible.
“The evidence gathered also identified a series of sexual offences he had carried out against Lucy in the year before killing her as well as another offence against a single teenage girl in 2012.”
Mr Mousley said the defendant “had an interest in under-age sexual activity” and had a collection of knives.
He was also accused of having sex with a 14-year-old girl in 2012 in the same area of woodland where Lucy’s body was found.