The chances of saving a young girl were lost in the months before she was raped and murdered in her own home by a known rapist, a damning report revealed.
The treatment of Lucy McHugh, 13, who was stabbed 27 times by paedophile Stephen Nicholson in Southampton, has been slammed by the police and social services.
Concerns The Safeguarding Children Partnership study found that Lucy was exploited by Nicholson, who was living with her relatives, was not investigated.
Last year, Nicholson was jailed for life for the July 2018 murder of Lucy.
A jury at Winchester Crown Court found that Lucy had told Nicholson that she was pregnant on the eve of her murder.
The investigation into her death found that teachers had raised suspicions that she had an older boyfriend who could manipulate her sexually.
But social workers said the worries had “no basis” as Lucy ‘s mother reassured them.
The complaints were not followed up by officials and no data was exchanged with the police or social services.
The social care workers and police of both children were informed that Nicholson had a criminal background.
Nicholson was found guilty of three charges of rape against Lucy when she was 12 and a count of sexual intercourse with another girl who was 14, in addition to her murder.
Study writer Moira Murray said Nicholson’s sexual relationship with the teen, whose body was discovered in a wooded area of the Southampton Sports Centre in July 2018, could have been discovered if protocols were followed.
“She said:” It was appropriate to consider the referrals as child protection.
If this had happened, it would have been possible to convene a strategy conversation about the danger this man posed to Lucy and her family.
“It did not happen, and it was a missed chance.”
The study concluded that by not further investigating Nicholson when he came to their attention before Lucy’s death, Hampshire Constabulary displayed a “lack of professional interest,” even when it became clear that he was tattooing under-age girls.
The executive director of Southampton City Council apologized to the family of Lucy for the “deficiencies of the council” and said it was committed to keep improving its procedures.
Supt Kelly Whiting, District Commander for Southampton, speaking about the report, said the force was already “identifying changes after this tragic death.”
Alan Whitehead, Southampton Test MP, called the assassination of Lucy a “tragedy for our city.”
Nicholson, a tattoo artist, will spend at least 33 years behind bars.
A post-mortem disclosed that at the time of her death, Lucy was not pregnant.