POLICE have today (August 15) relaunched their hunt for the weapon used in the murder of Southampton schoolgirl Lucy McHugh.

Almost a dozen officers were spotted this morning searching a wooded area of Southampton Sports Centre - where the 13-year-old's body was found three weeks ago.

Police had previously confirmed they had ended their search of the area last week.

But today they relaunched the hunt, this time returning to a different area of woodland, on the other side of the Sports Centre.

Hampshire Constabulary confirmed the police were there as part of the probe into the death of Lucy – whose body was found in a wooded area of the facility on Thursday, July 26.

A spokesperson said the force was following a 'line of enquiry'.

It comes a day after specialist officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) joined Hampshire Constabulary's probe in order to bolster the investigation.

The man leading the investigation, Detective Superintendent Paul Barton said his team were 'making the most' of national resources available to the force.

He said: "My dedicated team has been working around the clock to find Lucy’s killer and we are making progress.

"To support their efforts, we’re making the most of the national resources available to us and have called upon the NCA’s major crime support team.

"The team offers specialist investigative skills in key areas such as serious crime analysis, research, digital media and behavioural science.

"They are already working with local detectives as we piece together what happened to Lucy.

"As we continue to do everything we can, we still need the public’s support.

"Someone out there knows something and we urge anyone with information to come forward.

"It’s never too late to get in touch, even with something that may have seemed insignificant at the time.

"If any of Lucy’s friends are worried about only coming forward now – please don’t.

"Your piece of information could make the difference."

The murder probe was launched last month following the discovery of Lucy's body.

Her last known location was previously thought to be her home on Mansel Road East on Wednesday, July 25.

But last week, officers made a breakthrough when they spotted the Redbridge Community School student on CCTV.

She was seen passing Tesco Express on the corner of Lordswood Road and Coxford Road, around 9.30am on Wednesday, July 25.

The supermarket is a short distance from the Sports Centre.

Daily Echo:

(Right: The area where Lucy's body was found. Top left: The area police were searching today (August 15). Bottom left: Tesco Express, where Lucy was last seen at 9.30am on Thursday, July 26)

Police have continued to comb through evidence since – having collected almost 15,000 hours of CCTV footage and more than 900 items.

Today, the force renewed its appeal, three weeks on from the launch of the investigation.

Dept Supt Barton said: "We want readers to focus on the area of the Sports Centre.

"Were you there on that day? Did you see Lucy?

"More importantly, did you see a suspect or did you see someone who was coming away from the scene?

"Maybe they were in a hurry or in distress?

"If you were there please pick up the phone and call us now."

Last week Crimestoppers offered a £10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for Lucy's murder.

Emily van der Lely, Crimestoppers spokeswoman, said: “This is every family’s worst nightmare, to have their child taken away from them at such a young age, it’s heartbreaking."

A 24-year-old man from Southampton has been arrested on suspicion of murder and engaging in sexual activity with a child.

The same 24-year-old was arrested with failing to help please in their investigation.

He remanded in custody following a court hearing on August 31.

Anyone who has information on the incident is asked to call 101, quoting Operation Refund, or visit https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/hr2xCq7EEskQzA5SZVj26.