SOUTHAMPTON safeguarding chiefs have launched their own investigation following the death of city schoolgirl Lucy McHugh.

Southampton City Council has confirmed a Serious Case Review has been launched into the involvement of social services with Lucy, prior to the 13-year-old’s death in July 2018.

It comes as carer Stephen Nicholson, 25, of no fixed address, was found guilty of Lucy’s murder following a month-long trial at Winchester Crown Court.

During the trial, jurors heard how concerns about Lucy’s relationship with Nicholson had been raised twice to the council’s Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).

The court heard safeguarding chiefs at St Anne’s Catholic School, where Lucy attended in Year 7, had alerted social services after she was caught sending Snapchat messages to a man named “Stephen”.

Another report was made by teachers at Redbridge Community School after rumours began to circulate that Lucy had an older boyfriend, named “Stephen”, who was living at her home. Lucy denied the rumours, which were reported to social services.

But on both occasions, no further action was taken.

In sentencing Nicholson to a life sentence, with a minimum term of 33 years, Mrs Justice May raised questions of social services.

She said: “Lucy had made no secret of their relationship to friends at school. Hearing reports from pupils, Lucy’s teachers were naturally concerned.

“Although Lucy denied any sexual relationship to her teachers, they immediately did the right thing, referring their concerns to the local Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub, first in 2017 then again, after Lucy had moved to a different school, in 2018.”

On the decision for social services to take no further action, Mrs Justice May said: “The obvious question is how social services could have arrived at that conclusion, not once but twice, given what Lucy was telling her friends at the time, and what Nicholson is now known to have done with her in the family home.”

A spokesperson from Southampton City Council said: “We are pleased a conclusion has been reached in the trial.

“The tragic death of Lucy McHugh is now the subject of a Serious Case Review being undertaken by Southampton Safeguarding Partnership.”

A spokesperson for children’s protection charity NSPCC said: “Lucy McHugh suffered a terrifying campaign of abuse at the hands of a man who exploited her vulnerability, then brutally ensured her silence.

“His sentence reflects the monstrous nature of his offences and we hope the review answers the remaining questions surrounding her death.”

As previously reported, Nicholson, was jailed for life, with a minimum sentence of 33 years, yesterday at Winchester Crown Court.

He was previously found guilty of Lucy's murder by a jury.

Nicholson was also found guilty of three counts of rape against Lucy, when she was 12, and sexual activity with another girl, who was 14 at the time.