A “SELFISH and narcissistic” care worker who carried out a “ferocious and brutal” murder of a Southampton schoolgirl has been jailed for life.

Stephen Nicholson carried out an “execution-style” killing of “bright and bubbly” Lucy McHugh, 13, who he had been sexually abusing for a year.

Yesterday at Winchester Crown Court, the 25-year-old was given a life sentence by the Honourable Mrs Justice May DBE, who imposed a minimum sentence of 33 years.

It comes after Nicholson was found guilty of murdering Lucy, whose body was found in a wooded area of Southampton Sports Centre on July 26.

He was also found guilty of three counts of rape against Lucy, when she was 12, and a count of sexual activity against another girl, who was 14 at the time.

In sentencing Nicholson, Mrs Justice May, said: “ You murdered Lucy McHugh, having sexually exploited her in an utterly selfish and depraved way.

“She was a 13-year old child.

“Lucy was vulnerable; easy prey for someone with an interest only in satisfying his own appetites and no regard at all for the age of a girl who seemed to him to be sexually available.”

Mrs May continued: “Any sudden death is a tragedy, but the violent death of a child is particularly shocking.

“A future full of unknown promise cruelly obliterated; all that potential unrealised.

“Lucy was described by her teachers as bright, bubbly, intelligent, eager to learn."

She added: “The combination of his cold narcissism and hot anger dictated that Lucy should be put out of his way and he saw to it that she was.

“Your selfishness and savagery have blighted her family’s lives forever.”

The jury previously heard how Nicholson had lured Lucy into a wooded area of Southampton Sports Centre on July 25 last year.

Once there, he carried out what Mrs Justice May described as a “ferocious and brutal” murder of Lucy.

The court previously heard from Home Office pathologist Basil Purdue, who said Lucy had sustained 27 stab and cuts wounds, most likely from a kitchen knife.

He said Lucy’s fatal wounds had been to her neck.

Prosecutor William Mousley QC said Nicholson had killed Lucy to “silence her” after she had text him to say she was pregnant.

This threatened to expose his year long sexual abuse of her – which began shortly after Nicholson moved in to the family home as a lodger in 2017.

The court was told Lucy was not pregnant at the time of her death.

In mitigation, James Newton-Price QC said Nicholson, of no fixed address, had a “difficult upbringing” and at one time was in a children’s home.

Nicholson was cleared of one count of sexual activity with a child which related to Lucy after she had turned 13.

During the trial, on a defence application which was unopposed by the prosecution, Mrs Justice May directed the jury to return a not guilty verdict on another count of sexual activity with Lucy, when she was 13.