Police ‘failed teen’ killed by paedo lodger who feared she’d reveal vile abuse
Chances to save a teenage girl in the months before she was raped and murdered by a known criminal in her own home were missed, a damning report found.
Police and social services have been slammed over the handling of Lucy McHugh, 13, who was stabbed 27 times by paedophile Stephen Nicholson in Southampton.
Concerns Lucy was being abused by Nicholson, who was lodging with her family, were not investigated, a report by the Safeguarding Children Partnership found.
Nicholson was jailed for life last year for Lucy's murder in July 2018.
A jury at Winchester Crown Court found heard that on the eve of her murder Lucy had told Nicholson that she was pregnant.
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The inquiry into her death found that teachers had raised concerns that she had an older boyfriend who could be sexually exploiting her.
But social services said the concerns had "no foundation" as they were reassured by Lucy’s mother.
Officials did not follow up the concerns and no information was shared with the police or social services.
Both children's social care staff and police were aware Nicholson had a criminal history.
As well as her murder, Nicholson was found guilty of three counts of rape against Lucy when she was 12 and a count of sexual with activity with another girl, who was 14.
Report writer Moira Murray said that if processes were followed, Nicholson’s sexual relationship with the teen – whose body was found in a wooded area of Southampton Sports Centre in July 2018 – may have been unearthed.
She said: "The referrals needed to be treated as one of child protection.
"If this had happened, a strategy discussion could have been convened concerning the risk this man posed to Lucy and her family.
"This did not happen and was a missed opportunity."
The report claimed Hampshire Constabulary showed a "lack of professional curiosity" by not further investigating Nicholson when he came to their attention prior to Lucy's death, including when it became known he was tattooing under-age people.
Southampton City Council's executive director apologised to Lucy's family for the "council's shortcomings" and said it was determined to keep improving its procedures.
Speaking about the report, Supt Kelly Whiting, district commander for Southampton, said the force was already "identifying improvements following this tragic death".
Alan Whitehead, MP for Southampton Test, called Lucy's murder a "tragedy for our city".
Tattoo artist Nicholson will serve a minimum of 33-years behind bars.
A post-mortem revealed that Lucy was not pregnant at the time of her death.
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