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Joshua Stimpson jailed for life after being found guilty of murdering Molly McLaren in Dockside Outlet car park in Chatham

A bitter stalker who stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death at the Dockside Outlet in Chatham was branded “wicked and cowardly” by a judge.

Joshua Stimpson was jailed for life with a minimum term of 26 years - and warned he may never be released - after being found guilty of murdering Molly McLaren.

The double glazing worker tracked the "beautiful" 23-year-old university student before inflicting at least 75 wounds on her as she sat trapped and helpless in her car.

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Joshua Stimpson. Picture: Kent Police.
Joshua Stimpson. Picture: Kent Police.

Despite prompt medical attention, she died at the scene on the morning of June 29 last year.

Stimpson, 26, of High Street, Wouldham, had admitted manslaughter, claiming diminished responsibility, but denied murder.

The jury of eight men and four women was out for less than four hours before returning a unanimous verdict to murder.

There were shouts of “Yes” and sobs from Molly’s mother Jo and friends.

After the hearing, Molly's family issued a statement describing their pain at losing her - and their commitment to raising awareness of the dangers of stalking.

Molly McLaren
Molly McLaren

Stimpson showed no emotion and stared ahead as Judge Adele Williams told him: “This was a cruel and cowardly act. This was an act of wickedness. You took away Molly’s life quite deliberately in the most vicious fashion.

“You slit her throat while repeatedly stabbing her. You did this because she had brought the relationship with you to an end about 12 days before this killing.”

Maidstone Crown Court heard Stimpson slashed Molly in the head and neck “again and again” in what a witness described as “like a frenzy”.

Brave Benjamin Morton tried to pull Stimpson off as he continued the attack, but could not do so.

Mr Morton then tried to shut the door on Stimpson’s leg, but he closed it and the onslaught continued.

Stimpson was covered in blood when police arrived and arrested him.

Prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC made it clear at the outset that the claim of diminished responsibility was not accepted.

Two psychiatrists gave conflicting views on Stimpson’s mental state at the time of the attack.

Molly was stabbed to death in her car. Picture: Kent Police.
Molly was stabbed to death in her car. Picture: Kent Police.

Defence expert Dr Shahid Majid assessed him as 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.

Molly, a second year student at the Medway campus of Kent University, and Stimpson first made contact on the dating app Tinder in July 2016 before meeting up the following November.

She decided to end the relationship four months later in March last year. They were apart for a short time but they continued dating until June 17, when she told Stimpson it was over.

He then posted derogatory comments and photographs about Molly on social media.

Joshua Stimpson
Joshua Stimpson

On June 27, he joined Nuffield Gym at Medway Valley Park in Rochester, where Molly had applied for a job as a receptionist.

“This relationship being finished, the defendant would follow her,” said Mr Bennetts.

Stimpson was caught on CCTV cameras at Asda in Chatham buying a Sabatier paring knife which he used to kill Molly. It was later found on the driver’s seat of her car.

He also bought a Saxon pickaxe from Homebase in Chatham, which was recovered from his car after the killing.

Judge Adele Williams
Judge Adele Williams

On the morning of June 29, she went to the gym and parked nearby. She was working out when Stimpson entered. She asked him: “Are you following me now?”

She texted her mother at 10.45am to tell her: “Mum he’s turned up at the gym and come next to me.” She also phoned her mother, who told her to go straight home.

Molly contacted friends on Whatsapp. At 11.02am, she posted: “Feel like I’m ------- looking over my shoulder all the time.”

Witness Kodie Jarvis saw Stimpson drive up, get out of his car wearing shorts and T-shirt and walk quickly towards Molly as she sat in the driver’s seat.

A Stanley knife found in Stimpson's car
A Stanley knife found in Stimpson's car

“He yanked the door open,” said Mr Bennetts. “Molly started screaming. A man tried to pull Stimpson off. Miss Jarvis called the police.”

Benjamin Morton, who had tried to stop the attack, said later: “The male was continuously stabbing the female in the neck and head area, but mainly round the neck. It was like a frenzy. He was doing it again and again.”

The have-a-go hero tried to grab his leg but it slipped from his grip because of the blood on it.

Stimpson eventually stopped the attack, got out of the car and paced up and down. The police arrived and he was arrested.

A pickaxe bought by Stimpson before the attack
A pickaxe bought by Stimpson before the attack

Police, paramedics and a doctor tried to save Molly, but she was pronounced dead at 11.43am.

After his arrest, Stimpson, who did not give evidence, was asked by a mental health nurse if he had been having thoughts about harming Molly and he replied: “Maybe yesterday, but I didn’t act on them.”

Asked if he had experienced any difficulties with his thoughts, he said: “I must have or I wouldn’t have done this.”

Mr Bennetts said Stimpson claimed he was bipolar, but the prosecution psychiatrist said he very much doubted it.

Messages sent by Molly before she was killed
Messages sent by Molly before she was killed

Stimpson discovered that Molly had blocked him on Facebook. He told a female friend and she said: “Don’t worry, we can stalk from mine if we need to.”

In a message to a friend, Molly said: “I am scared he might hurt me. I don’t know how on edge he is.”

She also complained about Stimpson being manipulative, adding: “He has turned really nasty. He has literally lost the plot.”

The court was packed as Judge Williams told Stimpson: “You followed her to the gym that morning. You spent time in the gym and then you lay in wait for her in the car park, waiting until she got into her car so that she was then trapped in the car when you got in and launched your attack.

“You intended to kill her. You were determined to punish her for finishing the relationship with you. You were seeking revenge.

"You have a narcissistic personality trait, and I am sure you are not suffering from a personality disorder, having heard the psychiatric evidence.

“You are supremely selfish and callous. You planned this killing.”

Judge Williams said the attack was committed in public and was premeditated with planning.

“She was 23 years old, beautiful and intelligent,” she continued. “She was a second year student at the University of Kent. She had her whole life in front of her.

“She was loving and a much loved daughter, family member and friend to many. She is mourned by a large number of people.

Molly's final moments
Molly's final moments

“Her family’s grief and anguish is raw and apparent for everyone to see. Their loss and grief is immeasurable and nothing I can say or any sentence I can pass can deal with that grief and loss.

“You have shown no remorse for killing Molly. You are concerned only with yourself and your own feelings.

The knife used to kill Molly
The knife used to kill Molly

Although he had no previous convictions, Stimpson had a history of stalking one other girlfriend and a woman he went out with one evening.

“You are, on the evidence before me, a highly dangerous young man and you will pose a very considerable risk to women for a very considerable period in the future,” said the judge.

Judge Williams said the starting point for the minimum term was 25 years as it fell into the category of taking a knife to the murder scene.

Joshua Stimpson buying the knife at Asda in Chatham
Joshua Stimpson buying the knife at Asda in Chatham

Aggravating features were stalking Molly in the weeks before the killing. There were no mitigating features, said the judge.

She added: “You cannot even be considered for parole until you have spent 26 years in prison. You may never be released. You may serve more than the minimum term. That will be a matter for the parole board.”

After the hearing, senior investigating officer Detective Sergeant Ali Worton said: "Molly was a popular and ambitious young woman with her whole life ahead of her but this was stolen by Stimpson in the most brutal way imaginable.

"He has proven to be an extremely dangerous individual and needs to spend a lengthy period of time in prison where he can cause no further harm to innocent people.

The packaging of the knife used to kill Molly, which was found on Stimpson's bedroom floor. Picture: Kent Police.
The packaging of the knife used to kill Molly, which was found on Stimpson's bedroom floor. Picture: Kent Police.

"It was clear to the jury and us that Molly’s death was pre-planned and that Stimpson is a cold and calculated killer rather than somebody who does not have the mental capacity to control himself.

"By denying murder and failing to accept responsibility for his actions, he forced Molly’s family and friends to suffer even further distress through the tough ordeal of a crown court trial."

DS Worton also praised Molly's family, and the emergency services who tried to save her, adding: "I would like to pay tribute to Molly’s family for the strength and dignity they have shown throughout and I hope this result is of some comfort.

"I would also like to thank the police officers and ambulance staff who attended the scene of Molly’s death and fought valiantly to save her.

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

"They face difficult situations on a daily basis but this was one that will certainly live long in the memory and I am keen that their efforts are recognised.

"Finally I would like to express thanks and recognise the courage of the members of public who tried desperately to stop the attack on Molly."

Claire Prodger, from the Crown Prosecution Service, added: "Joshua Stimpson armed himself with a knife and carried out a violent attack in broad daylight which robbed a young woman of her future.

"Stimpson admitted Molly’s manslaughter, but his defence claimed he was not guilty of murder because he had suffered an abnormality of his mental functioning. However, through the use of expert medical evidence, the prosecution was able to show to the jury that Stimpson was aware of his actions and they did amount to murder.

"I hope this conviction can bring some measure of comfort to Molly’s family and friends and our thoughts are with them at this time."

Keith Hunt and Lynn Cox reported live from the sentencing hearing. Here is how it unfolded:

[Live Grid - Trial updates 9]

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