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Molly McLaren review finds Staffordshire Police failed in 2013 investigation into murderer Joshua Stimpson

Concerns about the obsessive ex who murdered university student Molly McLaren were not properly investigated in the run up to her death, a report has found.

Joshua Stimpson was jailed for a minimum of 26 years last February after repeatedly stabbing 23-year-old Molly as she sat in her car at Dockside Outlet in Chatham.

The 27-year-old, of High Street, Wouldham, had met her on Tinder in 2016 and the relationship broke down the following June.

Molly McLaren was murdered by ex Joshua Stimpson in 2017
Molly McLaren was murdered by ex Joshua Stimpson in 2017

He bombarded her with messages and posted derogatory comments about her online in the days after the break up and 12 days later on June 29 carried out his sickening attack.

But Stimpson had previously displayed stalker-type behaviour and now a domestic homicide review (DHR) carried out by the Kent and Medway Community Safety Partnerships has probed the handling of his case.

It found Staffordshire Police failed to adequately investigate allegations made against Stimpson four years prior to Molly's death.

He'd been living in Stoke-on-Trent and had gone on a date with Newcastle woman Alexandra Dale.

Afterwards, he'd harassed her over text and was suspected of slashing the tyres on her mum's car.

Stimpson was reported to Staffordshire Police for stalker-type behaviour in 2013
Stimpson was reported to Staffordshire Police for stalker-type behaviour in 2013

But the messages weren't recorded as a crime, there was not enough evidence linking him to the criminal damage and ultimately Stimpson was sent a text by a police officer warning him to stay away.

The officer told Miss Dale to not publicise where she was going. Despite the officer's warning Stimpson went on to threaten to stab and drown Miss Dale.

Kent Police were not informed of Stimpson's past when he moved to the county and as he'd never been a formal suspect or cautioned for any offences he was not present on any police database.

The DHR read: "The potential relevance of Staffordshire Police’s involvement hinges on whether, had things been done differently, Kent Police might have found out about the 2013 incident in Staffordshire when [Molly] reported her concerns about [Stimpson].

"We accept that our investigation in 2013 was not up to the required standards..." Charlotte Slaney, Staffordshire Police

"This could have been achieved in two ways: first, if [Stimpson] had been named as a suspect for a crime, a search of the Police National Database (PND) would have revealed this. Second, if he had been cautioned or convicted of a criminal offence, this would have been recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC)."

In 2016 Staffordshire Police changed its policy, meaning officers are now required to record stalking as a crime even if victims don't want to take matters further.

The officer who dealt with Miss Dale's case received 'management advice' and the force admitted its investigation was not up to the required standard.

Force spokesman Charlotte Slaney said: "Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Molly McClaren. We accept that our investigation in 2013 was not up to the required standards. As a result, a police officer received non-disciplinary action - management action by way of words of advice.

Joshua Stimpson is serving a life term
Joshua Stimpson is serving a life term

"Staffordshire Police participated fully in this DHR. We acknowledge the value that it brings to critically and independently review our policing response.

"Significant improvements have been made to our safeguarding and investigative approach to stalking and harassment, but we have more work to do. We are committed to ensuring officers and staff understand stalking and harassment and their devastating impact so they can better respond to incidents reported to us.

"A dedicated stalking risk assessment tool has been introduced which requires officers to examine the wider circumstances in each case, to identify patterns of stalking behaviour and ensure that all investigative opportunities are being pursued.

"Officers and police staff have received refreshed stalking and harassment training including from national stalking charity Paladin. Signposting to specialist support agencies was a key focus.

"Our systems are now able to capture stalking offenders as a standalone category so risks and offences can be captured at an early stage and victims can be given support and resources put in place.

Molly McLaren's parents speak a year after her death

"We introduced TecSOS, a GPS-based personal safety device provided to vulnerable victims in 2017. This provides covert emergency contact with 999 emergency police services and includes a location-based tracking system."

Kent Police's review into the case is ongoing however the DHR concluded the training given to officers was "robust" and reports made by Molly and mum Jo days before her murder were dealt with "appropriately and proportionately".

The DHR made a series of recommendations. They included getting Staffordshire Police to demonstrate how the same case would be dealt with now, getting the Home Office to lead an anti controlling and coercive behaviour campaign and making sure victims of cyber stalking in Kent are pointed in the right direction.

After Molly's death her family issued a statement outlining their commitment to raising awareness of the dangers of stalking.

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