THE man accused of murdering Southampton schoolgirl Lucy McHugh told a court he visited an area where police later found a bag of blood-stained clothes because he was selling drugs.

Giving evidence at his own trial, carer Stephen Nicholson denied dumping the clothes, which had DNA linked to both him and the teenager, at Tanner’s Brook.

He told Winchester Crown Court he had stopped off in the area on the day of Lucy’s disappearance, but only to complete a £20 cannabis deal with an unnamed client.

He denied any knowledge of how the bag got there, or why the clothes contained DNA and clothing fibres linked to him.

The 25-year-old, of no fixed address, is accused of murdering 13-year-old Lucy, whose body was found in a wooded area of Southampton Sports Centre on July 26 last year.

He denies murder.

Yesterday, the defendant told the jury he was at the home of his friend, an elderly man who lives near to the sports centre, on July 25 – the day Lucy went missing.

He said: “I had taken out bags of rubbish and generally cleaning up what I could during the time I was there.”

His barrister, James Newton-Price QC, asked Nicholson: “Did you ever have a sexual relationship with Lucy McHugh?”, to which he replied: “No.”

Mr Newton-Price then asked the defendant: “Did you kill Lucy McHugh?”, and he replied: “No.”

Nicholson said he went to his mother’s house that afternoon to get a shed ready to house his pet reptiles that he was moving out of Lucy’s house.

He said that he banged his head on a shelving unit and “split” a pair of trainers which he burnt on a bonfire with other rubbish to dispose of them.

The defendant said he swapped his Sim card into another mobile phone because he was worried police would question him and he did not want to reveal his drugs contacts on his normal phone.

Nicholson said that on the night before Lucy’s death, he received a Facebook message from her saying she was going to tell her mother that he had got her pregnant.

He said: “She was just making stuff up, trying to cause trouble, it was just nonsense.”

William Mousley QC, prosecuting, previously told the court Nicholson is accused of killing Lucy after she told him she was pregnant.

He said the defendant, who had been living in Lucy mother’s home as a lodger, had been exploiting the vulnerable teenager during a secret year-long sexual relationship.

As well as denying murder, Nicholson also denies three counts of rape against Lucy when she was aged 12, a count of sexual activity with a child against Lucy on multiple occasions when she was aged 13.

The jury was ordered to return a not guilty verdict on a further charge of sexual activity with a child in relation to Lucy.

Nicholson also denies sexual activity with a child in relation to the 14-year-old girl in 2012.

The trial continues.