THE trial of a man accused of the murder of schoolgirl Lucy McHugh has been halted after the defendant fell ill.

Carer Stephen Nicholson, of no fixed address, is accused of repeatedly stabbing the 13-year-old to the neck and upper body at Southampton Sports Centre before leaving her to die in July last year.

The judge, Mrs Justice May, told the jury at Winchester Crown Court: "The defendant is receiving medical treatment so he is unable to be here.

"It would be unfair to carry on without him."

Jurors were initially told they would be informed later as to whether the case would resume later on Monday. However, before the lunchtime break the court heard prosecutors could offer no further information on the nature of Nicholson's illness.

As a result, the case was adjourned until tomorrow morning at 10.30am.

The 25-year-old defendant, who is also a 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 is also charged with sexual activity with a child in relation to another girl aged 14, dated June 29, 2012.

He denies all charges and is remanded in custody.