A lodger who killed a 13-year-old girl to stop her from exposing him as a sex abuser has been found guilty of her rape and murder.
Stephen Nicholson, 25, stabbed Lucy McHugh in a “vicious” attack near Southampton Outdoor Sports Centre.
He first raped Lucy, then aged 12, while living at her home, and abused her before her death in last July.
Jurors at Winchester Crown Court found him guilty of three charges of raping Lucy.
He was also convicted of sexual activity with a 14-year-old girl in 2012, who he had taken to the same woodland where Lucy was found dead years later.
Nicholson, who showed no emotion when the verdicts were delivered, will be sentenced on Friday.
How killer was trapped by his own Facebook password
Police said the key evidence to “sink” Nicholson was found in a shopping bag discovered near Tanner’s Brook – about a mile away from the murder scene – four weeks after Lucy’s death.
Inside they found his DNA on a hoodie stained with Lucy’s blood among a number of items, some of which were partially burnt.
However, Nicholson might have been able to go back and dispose of this evidence had he not refused to divulge his Facebook password.
He claimed giving officers access to his account would expose his activities as a drug dealer but police believe he did not want them retrieving deleted messages from Lucy.
Nicholson was later jailed for 14 months for the offence, keeping him in custody while officers investigated Lucy’s murder.
It also started a debate about the time it takes for police to access social media accounts, although detectives in Hampshire said when they did finally access Nicholson’s account, just before the trial, they were not able to find the deleted messages.
Prosecutors believe they may have been able to retrieve them if access had been granted sooner.
A trial heard he had moved into the family home in 2017, and first raped Lucy in May of that year and on two further occasions over the coming weeks.
The trial heard Lucy would later describe him to friends as her “boyfriend”.
Tensions between the pair rose, culminating in a “big argument” a few days before her death.
Nicholson told police Lucy sent him a message the night before her murder, saying she was pregnant.
She left her home at about 09:00 BST the next day, and jurors saw CCTV footage of her walking to the sports centre where she would meet her death at the hands of Nicholson.
After luring her to woodland nearby, he stabbed her 11 times in a “vicious” and “calculated” attack.
Nicholson was cleared of one count of sexual activity with a child which related to Lucy after she had turned 13.