SOUTHAMPTON schoolgirl Lucy McHugh was stabbed to death in a “brutal” and “savage” attack sparked by her alleged killer’s desire to “silence her”, a prosecutor has told a court.

Addressing jury members in his closing speech, prosecutor William Mousley QC said "the cat was going to be let out of the bag” about murder accused Stephen Nicholson's alleged sexual abuse of the 13-year-old.

He also accused the 25-year-old of lying to members of the jury about his reasons for visiting Tanner’s Brook – where blooded-covered clothing with DNA links to Lucy and Nicholson was found.

Mr Mousley’s speech to jury members was made yesterday at the end of the evidence in the trial of Nicholson, who denies Lucy’s murder.

Nicholson, of no fixed address, also denies three counts of rape against Lucy when she was 12, sexual activity with her when she was 13 and denies sexual activity with a child in relation to another girl aged 14.

Mr Mousley began his closing speech yesterday at Winchester Crown Court by talking about the discovery of Lucy’s body, which was found at Southampton Sports Centre on July 26 last year.

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Mr Mousley said Lucy had been “brutally” and “savagely” killed in a knife attack.

He said Nicholson had been identified as a suspected within 36 hours, having been the last person to have contact with Lucy through a Facebook message on July 25 – the day the teenager disappeared.

Mr Mousley told the jury that the discovery of diaries and notes, written by Lucy about Nicholson, gave Nicholson “a desire to silence her”.

He also described Lucy as “vulnerable to exploitation”.

Mr Mousley said: “She was someone who would be disbelieved if she claimed something. She was someone whose claims would not be taken seriously. She was someone who craved affection.

“For someone who had an interest in the sexual abuse of 12-year-old girls, she was an easy, accessible and safe target. Nicholson was such a person.”

Mr Mousley told jury members that Nicholson had acted “suspiciously” before and after Lucy’s disappearance.

He accused Nicholson of lying about a drug deal he claimed to have made at Tanner’s Brook on the day of Lucy’s disappearance.

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Mr Mousley added: “Our case makes it clear what happened and that he, Nicholson, is the person responsible for taking the life of a 13-year-old girl in the fashion that he did in those woods.

“He did so because to him she had to be silenced.”

Mr Mousley’s closing statement came after Nicholson’s defence barrister, James Newton-Price QC, ended his evidence yesterday, with a witness who claimed she saw Lucy around 2pm on July 25.

Mr Newton-Price is set to start his closing statement today.

Mr Mousley 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.