A MEMORIAL service has been held for a Southampton schoolgirl who was murdered.

The service was to remember Lucy McHugh whose body was found at Southampton Sports Centre on July 26 last year.

The 13-year-old's service took place yesterday at Shirley Warren Action Church, Warren Crescent.

The service also featured a balloon release for Lucy.

This comes after a jury found Stephen Nicholson, 25, guilty of Lucy's murder, following a month-long trial trial at Winchester Crown Court.

He will serve a minimum sentence of 33 years and was found guilty, by a majority decision, of three counts of rape against Lucy.

Prosecutor William Mousley QC previously told the jury that Nicholson killed 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 exchanging messages with the teenager the night before she disappeared - on July 25.

The court was told how Lucy was lured by Nicholson to a wooded area of the Sports Centre, where he stabbed her 20 times in the neck and upper chest.

As previously reported in the Echo, the father of Lucy, said his daughter had her "life stolen from her" by her killer.

Andy McHugh, the teenager's biological dad, said he was "devastated" that Lucy would never get married or have children".

The 37-year-old, from Shirley Warren, also branded her killer Nicholson as a "monster".

Following the verdict, Mr McHugh, who is a community liaison officer at Shirley Warren Action Church, said: “I’m really happy and it feels like a massive weight off my shoulders.

“He (Nicholson) stole Lucy’s life from her and abused her for his own sexual gratification.

“He saw that Lucy was vulnerable and he targeted her and groomed her.”

Asked about what sentence Nicholson should receive, Mr McHugh said: “No sentence will ever be long enough, because nothing will ever bring her back.”