SOUTHAMPTON schoolgirl Lucy McHugh told her alleged killer that she was pregnant before she was stabbed to death in a secluded area of woodland, a court has heard.

The court was also told how the 13-year-old was in a ‘sexual relationship’ with alleged murderer Stephen Nicholson, 25, for more than a year before her death.

The 13-year-old’s body was found in a wooded area near of Southampton Sports Centre in July last year.

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The teenager had been repeatedly stabbed in the neck and upper body – receiving what prosecutor William Mousley QC described as a “catastrophic” wound to her neck.

The defendant, who is a carer and self-employed tattoo artist, is charged with Lucy’s murder as well as three counts of rape against her when she was aged 12.

He also faces two charges of sexual activity with a child against Lucy on multiple occasions when she was aged 13.

Nicholson (sketched above) is also charged with sexual activity with a child in relation to another girl aged 14 in 2012.

During the opening of the trial, at Winchester Crown Court, the jury were told that Nicholson had “an interest in underage sex” and exploited Lucy who he described as “vulnerable”.

He said: “This case concerns the vicious murder of Lucy McHugh, a 13-year-old girl, in woodland within the precincts of the outdoor Southampton Sports Centre.

“She was repeatedly stabbed to the neck and upper body and she bled to death as a result.

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“The killer, who the prosecution alleges, was Stephen Nicholson, then left her either dying or dead in a large area of woodland and made his escape.

“It had clearly been the intention of her attacker to kill her, in other words, she had been murdered.”

Mr Mousley said that Nicholson told police after he was arrested that on the night before her death, Lucy had sent him a Facebook message saying that she was pregnant.

Mr Mousley said that Nicholson had been a lodger at Lucy’s home where she lived with her mother, Stacey White, her mother’s partner, Richard Elmes, and her siblings.

The prosecutor said Lucy had kept a diary which detailed her sexual relationship with the defendant dating back to May 2017.

In the diary entries, Lucy described a number of sexual acts with Nicholson and claimed he had taken her virginity.

Mr Mousley said these diary entries and letters formed the basis of the prosecution’s rape allegations against Nicholson.

He said in the pieces of writing, Lucy described Nicholson becoming “increasingly violent” with her and included descriptions of him grabbing her neck.

He also read a note titled “Abuse” which Mr Elmes found after it had gone through the washing machine which stated: “He would make me or rape me anyway.”

Lucy 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.”

Mr Mousley said the diary described Lucy and the defendant making arrangements for them to meet in each other’s rooms for sexual encounters and the pair had sent naked photos to each other.

And he said that Lucy had told friends that she was pregnant but she later said that she had been referring to her mother being pregnant.

Mr Mousley said Nicholson 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.

He said that Nicholson claimed that Lucy’s diaries and allegations were the “fantasies of a 12/13-year-old girl” and he denied having sex with the other alleged victim.

Mr Mousley said that Nicholson, who was staying at his mother’s house at the time, visited Lucy’s home on July 23 to feed his pet reptiles that he kept there and ended up in an argument with her.

He said that Lucy was heard to shout at the defendant “This is all your fault” and “I have got a hold on you anyway”.

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

The jury was shown CCTV footage of Lucy walking to the sports centre where her body was found the next morning.

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Mr Mousley said that clothing was found at another area of woodland called Tanners Brook which had DNA links to both Lucy and the defendant.

He said the defendant had also destroyed his trainers in a bonfire on the day Lucy died.

Mr Mousley said Nicholson had left his neighbour a note that day, saying he was going to have the bonfire.

The case was later closed by Mr Mousley who said: “From the evidence we have presented we say there is one inescapable conclusion, that Stephen Nicholson is guilty on each and every count.”

Mr Mousley later called a witness, who told the court she believed she had seen Lucy at the Sports Centre on the morning of July 25.

A police officer, who was called to the scene after Lucy’s body was found, also gave evidence.

Detective Inspector Gareth Jones, who also attended the scene on June 26, said Lucy had suffered a “number of injuries”, including a neck wound and a “nasty gash” on her chin.

Nicholson denies the charges and the trial, which is expected to last up to six weeks, continues.