Mother of Murdered British Schoolgirl Urges Facebook to Release Murder Suspect’s Password

Tom Ozimek
By Tom Ozimek
September 4, 2018USshare

NTD Photo

LONDON—The mother of a murdered British schoolgirl has condemned Facebook over its failure to turn over the prime suspect’s password to detectives.

Stacey White said the social media giant was standing in the way of justice for her 13-year-old daughter, Lucy McHugh, who was found stabbed to death in a wooded area on July 26.

“In situations like this, Facebook really should just release the information that is needed and I think that is the opinion that everybody has,” she told the Daily Mail.

“They should give over the account details. Lucy needs justice. It’s so easy for them to do.”

Murder victim Lucy McHugh
British schoolgirl Lucy McHugh was murdered on July 25, 2018. Police have appealed to the public for more information in the case. (Hampshire Constabulary)

Stephen Nicholson, a 24-year-old family friend who was staying in Lucy McHugh’s home until shortly before her death, was arrested on suspicion of murder and sexual activity with a child.

Nicholson twice refused to give detectives his Facebook password, claiming that his account held information about cannabis that might incriminate him.

A judge sentenced Nicholson to 14 months in jail on Aug. 31 on the basis of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, after dismissing his excuse as “wholly inadequate.”

“What you have done is obstructed the investigation, and a very serious investigation indeed. It has caused a very significant delay,” the judge said, according to The Sun.

“It means that the task of police investigating the murder of Lucy McHugh is that much more difficult.”

‘A Lengthy Procedure’

Prosecutor Matthew Lawson said Nicholson had admitted to contacting the victim on Facebook on the evening before and morning of her disappearance.

Lawson added that the police were following a “lengthy procedure” that involves applying to U.S. judges for a court order to force Facebook to reveal the password.

This legal process is covered by the MLAT (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty) between the American and British governments governing the disclosure of data from a U.S. entity.

Facebook told the BBC that it had been cooperating with Hampshire Police on the McHugh murder investigation.

“This is a terrible case and our hearts go out to the family of Lucy McHugh,” said a Facebook spokeswoman, the BBC reported.

“We are working closely with law enforcement and there are well-established legal mechanisms that the police follow to obtain information in criminal investigations like this.”

British Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick said detectives should have access to social media materials “within minutes.”

“I absolutely think that in certain instances—and it sounds like this is one—law enforcement in the UK ought to have vital evidence which might bring someone to justice,” she told British radio station LBC.

“There are complex and practical things for them, and legal things, which I do respect. It’s not as straightforward as it sounds, but I think that’s where we should be.”

Facebook Cooperative

Detective Paul Barton of the Hampshire police told the BBC that while it was a “challenge internationally for law enforcement” to obtain information from Facebook, the company’s attitude has been cooperative.

“Facebook have seen the media interest in this investigation and they’ve been positive in coming forward and asking us how they can help us,” Barton said, the BBC reported.

Barton also made a renewed appeal to the public on Monday, Sept. 3, asking for help to find McHugh’s killer.

“We’re asking Lucy’s friends to think about conversations they had with her in the lead-up to Wednesday, July 25—the day she went missing” he said.

Murder victim Lucy McHugh walking
British detectives have released CCTV footage of murder victim Lucy McHugh in hopes of obtaining help from the public in the investigation. (Hampshire Constabulary)

“You may have kept something secret, but you won’t betray Lucy if you help us find her killer. You will not be in any trouble if, out of loyalty to Lucy, you have been holding this information back.”

Police believe McHugh was sexually assaulted during the July 25 attack that claimed her life.

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