Dog walker who found Lucy McHugh’s body tried to help as he thought she was ‘asleep’

A dog walker who found the body of Lucy McHugh said the teenager looked like she was sleeping.

Richard Morrell was walking his terrier through woodland in Southampton when he stumbled upon the 13-year-old girl’s body.

By the time he found her she had been lying dead for 24 hours after, prosecutors allege, Stephen Nicholson stabbed her multiple times.

In a statement read out to Winchester Crown Court on Wednesday Mr Morrell spoke of the moment he came across Lucy’s body.

He said: “It almost looked like she was asleep, I feared it was the worst case scenario but hoped it wasn’t.

“I would liken the amount of blood I could see to the amount you get from a nose bleed that you had wiped on your sleeve.

“It didn’t look like a murder scene, there was no pool of blood or weapon sticking out of the body.”

Not realising that she was dead, Mr Morrell called out to her.

He then rushed to find help and guided police back to her body which was amongst trees 50ft from a footpath.

Nicholson, of no fixed address, is accused of repeatedly stabbing the teenager to the neck and upper body at Southampton Sports Centre before leaving her to die in July last year.

The tattoo artist, who it is claimed had a ‘sexual interest’ in underage girls, was a lodger at Lucy’s mother Stacey White and stepfather Richard Elmes’ home in Southampton, prosecuting William Mousley QC told the jury.

The lawyer said the family suspected Lucy of having a crush on him although they did not know Nicholson was sexually abusing Lucy.

The pair often arguing to the point one would have to leave the home.

Nicholson was having sex with Lucy, according to diary entries and letters written by the teenager and read to the jury.

They had arranged a meet up in the woods to have sex on the day she was stabbed to death, Mr Mousley told the court.

In court today CCTV footage was played to jurors showing Lucy, wearing leggings and a white top, walking from her home in the direction of the outdoor sports centre at 9am on July 25.

The journey took Lucy half-an-hour and shows her carrying a bottle, taking her jacket off and checking her watch, the jury was told.

The jury was also played CCTV footage of Nicholson riding his bike from his mother’s house- where he was living at the time – to a friend’s house near the sport centre on July 25 and the day before.

He was also shown making another journey by bike to and from the sports centre, buying items from a Tesco Express store at 9am and carrying a bag from the shop.

The jury was also presented with footage of Nicholson riding after he is alleged to have disposed of blooded clothing at woodland at Tanner’s Brook.

Police investigator Stephen Dicker said the plastic bag appeared to be “less full” than before.

A broken part of a knife’s plastic handle which was found next to Lucy’s head was also shown to the jury, as well as a sports drink bottle discovered next to her body.

The 25-year-old defendant is charged with Lucy’s murder as well as three counts of rape against her when she was aged 12.

He also faces two charges of sexual activity with a child against Lucy on multiple occasions when she was 13 and with sexual activity with a child in relation to another girl aged 14, dated June 29, 2012.

Mr Mousley QC told the court Nicholson is accused of killing Lucy after she told him she was pregnant.

He said the defendant had been “exploiting” the “vulnerable” teenager during a secret year-long sexual relationship.

As part of the effort to find her killer police sifted through 15,000 hours of CCTV footage from more than 250 locations, collecting more than 900 items and receiving more than 200 reports from members of the public.

Mourners left flowers on a fallen tree on the track leading up to the spot where she was found.

A funeral was held for Lucy on Monday, August 27, at Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton, which the teenager would have walked past on the last day she was alive.

Lucy’s mother Stacey White described her as “a smiling, content little dolly who everyone adored and cherished”.

Nicholson denies all charges and is remanded in custody.

The trial was adjourned until Thursday