A MAN has pleaded not guilty to the rape of 13-year-old Lucy McHugh at the start of his trial for her murder.

Stephen Nicholson, 25, of no fixed address, is charged with the murder of the schoolgirl in July last year which he denies.

At the start of the trial at Winchester Crown Court, he pleaded not guilty to three charges of rape against Lucy when she was 12 years old and two charges of sexual activity with a child when she was aged 13.

A panel of jurors has been selected from which 12 will be sworn in on Thursday when the prosecution is expected to open its case.

Lucy left her home in Mansel Road East, Southampton, Hampshire, at about 9am on July 25, police have said.

Her body was found the next morning in woodland nearly two miles away.

A post-mortem examination revealed she died from stab wounds.

The trial resumes today, when the 12 jury members are selected.

The prosecution is due to open the case on Thursday.