The mother of murdered schoolgirl Lucy McHugh condemned Facebook last night over its failure to hand over the prime suspect's password.

Stacey White accused the social media giant of denying her justice after police were forced to apply to American judges for a court order demanding that it hand over the information, according to the Daily Mail.

Detectives investigating 13-year-old Lucy's murder 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. But controversially, Facebook has refused to hand it over.

Because Facebook is based in America, officers from Hampshire Police have been forced to apply to the US justice department for the password – a process that could take months.


Last night Miss White, 30, told the Mail: 'In situations like this, Facebook really should just release the information that is needed and I think that is the opinion that everybody has.

"They should give over the account details. Lucy needs justice. It's so easy for them to do."

MPs also voiced outrage, saying the delays in getting crucial information were ":deeply disturbing".

It has been almost six weeks since Lucy was stabbed to death and dumped in woods near a sports centre in Southampton.

Nicholson, 24, was swiftly arrested on suspicion of murder and of engaging in sexual activity with a child.

The suspect refused to give detectives the passwords to his Facebook accounts and was charged under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act with failing to co-operate with police. Nicholson, who was a lodger in Lucy's home, pleaded guilty.

Hampshire Police asked Facebook for access to his accounts in the early stages of the investigation.

The force was told it had to go through a lengthy bureaucratic process in the American courts and is still waiting for access.

Detectives believe the accounts could hold crucial information.

Miss White added of the police request: 'It would certainly give police an idea of what was being said between Lucy and Stephen.

"I will only rest when I have justice for Lucy, but until then I can't."

Miss White also criticised the social media company for turning her daughter's private Facebook account into a public memorial page.

"It's public so people can write whatever they like on there," she said. "They could at least have the decency to stop it from being public – I've messaged them about it and they still haven't changed it back."

This is the first time that Miss White has spoken publicly about her concerns over Facebook.

Last night senior MPs called for Facebook to do the 'right thing' to help police solve this "shocking case".

Yvette Cooper, chairman of the home affairs select committee, said: "This was an appalling murder, and Lucy McHugh's family need justice. For there to be such long delays and cumbersome international processes for getting crucial information in such a serious case is deeply disturbing.

"It shouldn't be beyond Facebook and the US and UK governments to come up with fast legal procedure for the police to get answers when it comes to investigating a child's murder."

Stephen Doughty, who also sits on the committee, said: "I would expect companies like Facebook to fully co-operate with law enforcement agencies, particularly in such a shocking case as this."

Earlier this year Lucy revealed on Facebook that she was "in a relationship" but did not say with whom. Nicholson, a care worker, told police he was in touch with Lucy via Facebook on the day she vanished and the night before – but would not let them see the messages.

Police were granted a court order requiring him to reveal the password, but he refused twice. The father of one claimed police would find information relating to cannabis on his Facebook timeline.

Last night police issued a fresh appeal for information. A spokesman said: "Sadly Lucy won't be returning to school tomorrow but her friends will be. One or more of them may have key information about what her plans were."

Last night Facebook refused to say if it had handed over the password. A spokesman said: "We are co-operating with Hampshire Police."