JURORS in the trial of a man accused of murdering Southampton schoolgirl Lucy McHugh are to continue their deliberations today.

Jury members will continue working towards a verdict in the case of Stephen Nicholson.

Nicholson is on trial following the death of 13-year-old Lucy, whose body was found in a wooded area of Southampton Sports Centre on July 26 last year.

The 25-year-old, of no fixed address, denies murder.

He 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.

Yesterday, jury members in the trial at Winchester Crown Court were sent out to begin their deliberations.

It followed the conclusion of the Honourable Mrs Justice May’s trial summary yesterday morning.

Jurors previously listened to the closing speech of Nicholson’s barrister, James Newton-Price QC, who described Lucy’s death as a “shocking and dreadful event”.

But he urged jury members to make a “cool, rational and unemotional assessment of the evidence”.

He reiterated that Nicholson denied knowing how a Tesco bag containing blood-stained clothing with DNA links to Lucy and Nicholson ended up dumped in Tanner’s Brook.

Mr Newton-Price also raised questions about the strength of DNA evidence found on a blue hoodie, found next to the bag, and suggested notes and letters, written by Lucy and addressed to Nicholson, could be “the fantasy of an adolescent young woman”.

Prosecutor William Mousley QC 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.

Mr Mousley told the jury that Nicholson had “a desire to silence Lucy" after she messaged him saying she was pregnant.