A paedophile who killed a 13-year-old girl to stop her from revealing the abuse he had put her through has been jailed for life as a court heard of his shocking history of violence.
Stephen Nicholson, 25, stabbed Lucy McHugh 27 times in an 'execution style' killing because he feared she would expose him.
He first raped Lucy when she was just 12 and he was living at her family home in Southampton. He then abused her repeatedly until he murdered her in July last year.
Nicholson, who has the word 'freedom' tattooed across his forehead, was today ordered to serve at least 33 years in prison before he can apply for parole.
The court heard the killer has a history of violence, starting when he took staff and youngsters at his children's home hostage at knife point when he just 15.
Judge Mrs Justice May today questioned just how thorough social services investigations were into Lucy's situation before she was killed.
Care worker Stephen Nicholson lured schoolgirl Lucy McHugh to woodland near her home in Southampton before stabbing her almost 30 times. The killer is pictured (right) on CCTV, carrying a Tesco bag on the day of Lucy's death
Lucy McHugh (pictured) was murdered 'execution-style' by Stephen Nicholson as he feared she would expose his sadistic abuse
Jailing Nicholson, the judge said: 'The evidence in this trial did not cover what enquiries the investigations covered. [Social services] had investigated but found nothing that concerned them.
'The obvious question is how they arrived at these conclusions not once but twice, given what she was telling people.'
Earlier today, Prosecutor William Mousley QC told the court that, ten years ago, Nicholson, then 15, took amphetamines and armed himself with knives before holding staff and residents at a children's home hostage.
He then stole £1,000 while holding a blade to a female resident's throat and made off in a staff member's car, before being caught by police.
While serving two years in a youth detention centre for that incident, he and two fellow inmates barricaded themselves in a canteen before he again armed himself with a knife tried to stab a prison guard.
The jury at his current trial also had also found him guilty of persuading a 14-year-old girl to have sex with him in 2012 as 'part payment' for a tattoo. The crime took place in the same woods where Lucy was murdered.
Speaking after Nicholson was jailed for life today, Lucy's father, Andy McHugh, said: 'I am happy with the result, at the end of the day he is serving life and unless he shows remorse he will never get out.'
Lucy's father Andy McHugh (left) described how the murder had left him facing 'an emptiness that will never be filled'. The victim's mother Stacey White (right) brought up Lucy and her 12-year-old brother Dylan after the breakdown of her relationship with Mr McHugh
Speaking outside court today, Mr McHugh said he was pleased with Nicholson's life sentence
2009 - Nicholson, aged 15 and high on drugs, arms himself with knives and takes two adult staff member of a children's home hostage. He then rounded up the other children, including one with learning disabilities, and corralled them into the room. He held a knife to the throat of one and stole £1,000 before taking off in a vehicle.
2010 - Nicholson is jailed for false imprisonment, affray, possession of a knife in a public place, theft, damage to property, aggravated vehicle taking and another associated driving offence. While in jail, he tried to stab a prison guard.
2012 - Following his release, he persuaded a 14-year-old girl to have sex with him as 'part payment' for a tattoo.
2017 - His sexual abuse of Lucy McHugh begins.
2018 - He murders Lucy, whose body is later found in woodland by a walker.
Describing the crime, the judge said: 'Lucy was described as bright, bubbly, intelligent and eager to learn. Her grandmother said her nickname was 'Brains' because of how quick she was.
'She was also vulnerable and newly romantic and this made her an easy target for someone looking to satisfy his own appetites. The man who took her life was just such a person.
'It seems Lucy developed a crush on Nicholson. Instead of rebuffing her, he encouraged her to continue her interest in him. She was available and he took full advantage.
'Nicholson used and abused Lucy. She had ceased to be of interest to him and had become an obstacle to his comfortable life.
'There was also the real risk of her making good on her threat to out him