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Family handout

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Lucy McHugh was found stabbed to death in woodland at Southampton Outdoor Sports Centre

The man accused of murdering a 13-year-old girl has told jurors he swore at her and pushed her away.

Lucy McHugh was found stabbed to death in woodland at Southampton Outdoor Sports Centre in July last year.

Stephen Nicholson told Winchester Crown Court he had never worn a hoodie which contained DNA linked to him and Lucy that was found dumped nearby.

Mr Nicholson, 25, denies the murder and rape of Lucy and sexual offences against her and another girl.

He began lodging at the Southampton house where Lucy and her family lived in 2017, the court has heard.

Mr Nicholson told jurors nothing sexual had happened between him and Lucy but said she “followed me about” and developed “a teenage crush”.

He said they had “not seen eye to eye” and often rowed in the house.

Asked by prosecutor William Mousley QC if his behaviour towards her had always been appropriate, Mr Nicholson said he believed swearing at her and “pushing her away from me was too much”.

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Hampshire Constabulary

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Jurors have been shown CCTV of Stephen Nicholson on the day of the alleged murder

Mr Nicholson was asked to hold up an evidence bag containing a bloodstained blue hoodie which a forensic expert said was “highly likely” to contain both his and Lucy’s DNA.

Jurors were told it was discovered alongside other clothing – including gloves, tracksuit bottoms and boxer shorts – that were found dumped at Tanner’s Brook, near where Lucy’s body was found.

Mr Nicholson denied he had ever worn the hoodie and said he “couldn’t say” if he had seen it before.

Mr Mousley asked: “Is it just bad luck that these items can only be linked to you?”

The defendant responded: “Yeah. As you can see from the CCTV I was wearing different clothes that day.”

Mr Mousley asked Mr Nicholson how he felt when he heard about Lucy’s death.

“I was shocked, she was a kid,” the defendant replied.

“I was heartbroken for [Lucy’s mother and stepfather]. No-one should see their child die.”

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The jury has been shown CCTV footage during the murder trial

Concluding the cross-examination, Mr Mousley said: “You wanted Lucy silenced, didn’t you?”

“Why would I want to silence a little kid?” the defendant replied.

Mr Mousley asked the defendant: “This was effectively an execution by you, wasn’t it?”

Mr Nicholson responded: “I had no part in her death.”

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Elizabeth Cook/PA Media

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Stephen Nicholson denies murdering Lucy McHugh

Mr Nicholson, formerly of Mansel Road East in Southampton, denies murder, three charges of raping Lucy when she was 12 and one count of sexual activity with a child once she had turned 13.

He also denies a count of sexual activity with a 14-year-old girl in 2012.

The judge previously directed the jury to return a not guilty verdict on one count of sexual activity with a child after the prosecution decided it had insufficient evidence.

The trial continues.

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