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Psychiatrists give evidence at murder trial of Joshua Stimpson over death of Molly McLaren at Dockside

Two psychiatrists gave conflicting views on Josh Stimpson’s mental state when he repeatedly stabbed ex-girlfriend Molly McLaren in a shopping centre car park.

Defence expert Dr Shahid Majid assessed the 26-year-old was suffering from an "abnormality of functioning" arising from a mental condition, while prosecution psychiatrist Dr Philip Joseph said he believed he was not suffering from any recognised medical condition.

Stimpson, of High Street, Wouldham, stabbed university student Molly McLaren, who was 23 and from Cobham, at least 75 times as she sat in her car at the Dockside Outlet in Chatham on June 29 last year.

Molly McLaren
Molly McLaren

He admits manslaughter, claiming diminished responsibility, but denies murder.

Judge Adele Williams gave the jury a definition of diminished responsibility before the two psychiatrists gave evidence.

“The defendant will be guilty of murder unless he proves at the time of the killing it was more probable than not he was suffering from diminished responsibility,” she said.

“If he succeeds in discharging that burden, he will be not guilty of murder and guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter. He has to prove when he attacked Molly McLaren he was suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning.”

Oliver Saxby QC, defending, said it "may not be any great surprise" that Stimpson would not be giving evidence.

“This, we submit, is a psychiatric issue and there is not much light Joshua Stimpson can shine on what happened.”

Joshua Stimpson
Joshua Stimpson

Dr Majid said after Stimpson was detained at the Trevor Gibbens unit in Maidstone he assessed him as suffering from a mental disorder, showing signs of a psychotic illness, and in need of treatment.

Stimpson was transferred to a hospital in Berkshire and has been treated there since.

He believed Stimpson had a severe personality disorder of an emotionally unstable and borderline type and it was difficult to say it did not have an impact.

Dr Majid was able to understand what he was doing and form a judgement, he said, but he would have had less ability to show self-control.

“We’re dealing with a personality disorder which can develop through childhood, not a mental illness,” he said.

From the first meeting, Stimpson suggested he had bipolar disorder, but Dr Majid said he placed more importance on his life history and interactions.

Molly McLaren died in the car park of the Dockside Shopping Outlet in Chatham
Molly McLaren died in the car park of the Dockside Shopping Outlet in Chatham

Stimpson felt a sense of abandonment at the age of 12 when his mother left the family home.

He was over-possessive and the speed at which he decided to tell one woman not to look at other men was bizarre, said the psychiatrist.

He was avoiding abandonment and needed to do anything he could to stop it.

He revealed hyper-sensitivity to any rejection and did anything he could to maintain relationships, including lying and manipulating.

When he realised it would not happen the woman became an object of hatred.

Once it was established the relationship with Molly would end, negative feelings switched to controlling and harming her. His actions were “beyond normal”, said Dr Majid.

Victim Molly McLaren
Victim Molly McLaren

Stimpson stayed and cleaned the dashboard of the car after Molly was killed. It seemed he’d had an episode of rage and had a massive loss of self-control at that time.

While at the hospital there were periods when he switched quite quickly in mood. He attempted to hang himself and barricaded himself in a room

Stimpson has said: “It’s cruel to keep me in this state. Send me back to prison so I can kill myself there.”

Dr Majid said Stimpson’s most worrying difficulties were in relationships with women.

Asked by prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC whether he would diagnose someone who bought a weapon and decided to kill as having a personality disorder, Dr Majid said he wouldn’t on those bare facts.

“Mr Stimpson hasn’t given me an account of the previous day,” said Dr Majid. “I find it difficult to say his disorder didn’t have an impact on what happened.”.

Joshua Stimpson
Joshua Stimpson

“I’m of the view Mr Stimpson has manifested a personality disorder from adolescence. I think having an emotionally unstable personality disorder does mean he is likely to have less self-control than an individual without it.”

Dr Joseph, for the prosecution, said he believed Stimpson had a stable background and his problems only started when he was 12.

Outside three relationships with women, he said, there was not enough evidence to diagnose a personality disorder. He was vain, immature and unable to show empathy or remorse. He was more concerned about himself than the effect it has had on Molly.

“He has problems but not a disorder,” said Dr Joseph. “I don’t know why there was an assumption he was out of control at the time. He didn’t say anything.

“Someone out of control is shouting and screaming. Footage seconds after shows he is in control. He’s detached – dazed but in control.”

Molly McLaren wrote a blog after battling with anxiety and an eating disorder
Molly McLaren wrote a blog after battling with anxiety and an eating disorder

There was an estimated gap in his memory of two to three weeks. It could not be ruled out there was an unconscious suppression of memory, but the likelihood was he knew but did not want to talk about it.

Dr Majid and Dr Joseph both agreed Stimpson was not bipolar.

Dr Joseph said he believed Stimpson was not suffering from a medical condition and diminished responsibility, therefore, did not apply.

“If he did purchase a knife and pickaxe, then it is likely he harboured deep feelings of rage,” he said. “He decided to kill her as an expression of feelings. He is callous and has a lack of empathy.

“I’m saying it’s personality traits and he (Dr Majid) is saying it is a disorder. It’s not unusual for two completely competent psychiatrists to disagree. We are witnesses and the jury can reject all or part of what we say.

Police at the scene of the incident
Police at the scene of the incident

“My opinion is he formed that intention when he brought the weapons. He didn’t buy them with the intention of killing himself.

“If it is anyone who lost self-control it is Molly because she is thinking: ‘God, I have got to get away from him.’”

Mr Saxby suggested Stimpson lost his self-control while he was in the gym with Molly shortly before the killing.

Dr Joseph said he believed there was no evidence of that, adding: “A stalker is in control.”

He said of Dr Majid: “I think he has gone over the boundary into the realm of personality disorder. I haven’t gone that far.”

The trial continues.

Amy Nickalls reported live from Maidstone Crown Court. Here's how it happened.

[Live Grid - Trial updates 6]

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