Lucy McHUGH should have been getting ready for the first day of the new school year yesterday.
She should have rolled out of bed, excited about seeing friends, teased younger brother Dylan about his first day at senior school and spent just enough time fussing about her appearance to put her in danger of being late.
A morning much like that faced by countless other 13-year-old girls returning to school after the summer break.
But Lucy wasn’t among the 1,000-odd students pouring into Southampton’s Redbridge Community School in their freshly ironed navy polo shirts and smart black trousers yesterday.
Tragically, Lucy enjoyed just four days of her holiday before her life ended in the most dreadful way imaginable — she was stabbed to death and her body dumped in woods near a sports centre, where it was found by a dog walker on the morning of July 26. It was almost 24 hours after she had disappeared.
A few simple facts are known about Lucy McHugh’s last morning.
She got dressed in typical teenage garb — camouflage leggings, white vest top and black jacket with white sleeves, red lettering on the back and the logo of a favourite band on the front.
At about 9am on July 25, she left the family’s redbrick terrace home in Mansel Road East and set off; destination unknown.
In the following 30 minutes, she was captured on CCTV three times.
First, wearing her jacket, at 9.06am walking past a convenience store in Wimpson Lane, then at 9.22am walking ‘with purpose’ on Coxford Road, by the General Hospital, past, with terrible irony, the cemetery where she is now buried, then finally, at 9.30am, outside a Tesco Express store, half a mile from where her body was found.
The alarm was raised that evening. Lucy’s body was not discovered until 7.45am the next day, in woodland overlooking a cricket pitch and athletics track at the 150-acre outdoor centre.
More than 200 police officers have been involved in trying to solve Lucy’s murder, one of the largest investigations carried out by Hampshire Police.
They have sifted through more than 15,000 hours of CCTV footage from 250 locations, collected more than 900 items and received more than 200 reports from the public.
Some 40 public- spirited volunteers grouped together to try to find the murder weapon, while others have contributed to raise funds for Lucy’s funeral.
Yet so far no murder weapon has been found and one valuable piece of potential evidence police want to examine has been withheld: the prime suspect’s Facebook password.
Detectives are desperate to access Facebook accounts belonging to tattoo artist Stephen Nicholson, who was jailed for 14 months on Friday for refusing to reveal his password to police.
At the time he was already on bail, having been arrested on suspicion of murder and sexual activity with a child after Lucy was found dead. But, amid a growing controversy that has piled more agony on Lucy’s grieving family, the internet giant has refused to hand over the password.
Facebook claims to be ‘working closely’ with law enforcement and says that there are ‘well- established legal mechanisms the police follow to obtain information in criminal investigations like this’.
That such ‘legal mechanisms’ are delaying a murder inquiry drew a stinging response from senior MPs and police.
So what do we know of Lucy, her death and the man who remains the prime suspect?
Lucy and Dylan were raised by Stacey, a care worker, after the breakdown of her relationship with Andy McHugh, 36. Lucy had not had a relationship with her father, it is believed, for at least three years. Lucy’s mother said her daughter wanted to be known by her surname, rather than Mr McHugh’s.
Mr McHugh, who married Michele in 2009 and has had two more children, describes himself as a ‘family man and businessman’.
The online ‘vape’ store boss was away at a Christian festival when his daughter was killed.
He later held his own memorial service and said:
I’ve had my heart ripped out over and over, but through the pain of losing my daughter I’ve had an amazing bunch of people to support me through the start of this season of my life.
Last night Will Rose, a friend of Mr McHugh, said:
Lucy was a lovely little girl growing up, always bubbly and happy, playing with Andy and Michele’s other children. Andy is a devout Christian, heavily involved in the church, and Lucy would go with him on Sundays and be singing and dancing.
What went wrong in their relationship is unclear, but as a result Lucy’s grandfather, Keith McHugh, had not seen his granddaughter since 2015.
Yesterday, he told the Mail he was devastated by the loss of his ‘lovely, playful’ granddaughter.
Mr McHugh, 64, said when Lucy turned 16 she was set to receive a precious jewellery box left behind by his late wife, Lucy’s grandmother. Now the Army veteran, who has remarried, intends to name a star in her memory.