Lucy McHugh: Inside the chaotic final months as arguments turned schoolgirl's home into 'war zone'

SCHOOLGIRL Lucy McHugh lived a chaotic last few months before she was murdered by the best friend of her stepfather.

Thursday, 18th July 2019, 6:29 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th July 2019, 6:35 pm
Stephen Nicholson has been found guilty of the murder and rape of 13-year-old Lucy McHugh. Picture: Hampshire Constabulary/PA Wire

The 13-year-old was described by her mother, Stacey White, as her ‘smiling lip gloss angel’ who was loved for her ‘generosity and kindness’.

But the trial at Winchester Crown Court heard the family home in Mansel Road East, Southampton, was plagued by arguments, primarily between Lucy and Stephen Nicholson and also between Lucy and her mother's partner Richard Elmes.

Nicholson had lived at the house as a lodger for about a year after being invited by Mr Elmes because he had fallen out with his mother.

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Stephen Nicholson has been found guilty of the murder and rape of 13-year-old Lucy McHugh. Picture: Hampshire Constabulary/PA Wire

The court heard Nicholson - who had been best friends with Mr Elmes since they were children - would keep pet reptiles in the house and he said he stored cannabis in a kitchen drawer to sell to friends and clients.

The extent of the arguments meant Lucy repeatedly decided to leave home and live with her grandparents, Dawn and Darren White, including for one period of six months until about May 2018.

Mr Elmes told the court there would be arguments ‘the majority of the time’ in the house, saying many were between Lucy and Nicholson, which led to him asking the defendant to leave the house just a few days before the murder.

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Lucy McHugh. Picture: Hampshire Constabulary/PA Wire

He described witnessing one argument between Lucy and the defendant as like walking in on a ‘war zone’.

Nicholson told the court he had sworn at Lucy and pushed her violently, and he admitted his behaviour towards her had been "too much".

Lucy had written in her diary of having to barricade her bedroom door to stop Nicholson forcing his way in on one occasion.

Mr Elmes said in court that he argued with Lucy as well.

He admitted sending a message to the teenager's mother Ms White saying: ‘I'm going to end up punching Lucy.’

Ms White replied: ‘If you punch a child you will end up in jail so is it worth it, seriously?’

Ms White sent another message saying: ‘She is going to end up in care, she is accusing all of us of hitting her and throwing her about.’

Lucy was described by prosecutor William Mousley QC as ‘vulnerable’ and was receiving care from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, which had diagnosed her with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

Mr Elmes told the court she had self-harmed and the kitchen door was kept locked to keep her away from knives.

The lack of stability in Lucy's life was also shown by her changing secondary school after just one year.

Southampton City Council's social services were alerted by her schools after Lucy told friends that Nicholson was her boyfriend.

She also told friends he had got her pregnant and she had an abortion.

Ms White released a tribute to her daughter on what would have been her 14th birthday in October last year.

She said Lucy was killed as she was just beginning the ‘adventure’ of her life.

Ms White described her as ‘a mixture of fun, laughter, generosity, kindness and whose biggest critic was herself’.

She continued: ‘A smiling, content little dolly who everyone adored and cherished.

‘You soared through your life doing so many things, you never let anything stand in your way.

‘You loved so many activities: sports, art, drama, music, travelling, beaches and so much more.’

She added that Lucy had a love of Harry Potter and trips to theme parks and to Cornwall.