The Stalking & Murder of Molly McLaren

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In June of 2016, 22-year-old Molly McLaren was looking to connect to someone on a personal level; she turned to Tinder & ended up matching with 24-year-old Joshua Stimpson who lived only 9 miles from her. They chatted on the app regularly but didn’t meet in person until November. Before their first date, Molly told her mom that she was nervous to meet Josh but all went well. 

Molly was a great student, in her second year at university, studying health & fitness at the University of Kent. She was also a motivational fitness blogger. She had a strong friend circle, often meeting up to hang out & workout together.  One friend said she put 100% into everything & was a very motivating person. She would throw herself into her studies, always lively & full of enthusiasm. Her friend Amy described her as a real joker, someone that could make you laugh, even when you were having a bad day. Molly grew up in a rural village in Kent, a county in South East England to parents Joanne & Doug. Her mom described her as “bright as a button, beautiful inside & out.” Her dad said, “she was just our girl, an angel, a treasure.” They were a very close family.

Josh was a warehouse worker & then transitioned to sales. He came from divorced parents, mainly raised by his father.

As Molly’s relationship with Josh continued, he confided in her that he suffered from bi-polar disorder. This information did worry Molly though she hadn’t seen any mood swings or issues in Josh’s behavior that were concerning. Molly herself had dealt with bulimia & anxiety for many years so they seemed to be a support for each other. Her mom, Joanne worried about his bipolar history but Molly asked her not to judge. Joanne said that knowing Molly herself had issues, she worried about her taking on someone else’s issues. Joanne said that on the outside, Molly shone with self confidence but on the inside she often struggled with anxiety & lacked self confidence, worrying she wasn’t good enough & underestimating herself. 

As the weeks went on, Josh & Molly spent more & more time together, sharing their love of fitness & exercise. This was Molly’s first serious relationship. Her family welcomed Josh with open arms on their first meeting; they found him well-mannered, nice looking; they said he was chatty, nice & normal.  Molly’s dad said they watched football & had a beer together; nothing seemed amiss. Josh’s family liked Molly & felt she was a good influence for their son. 

Molly worked part time as a sales assistant at Ted Baker & quickly befriended Amy Lee, the two becoming inseparable. Amy could relate with Molly’s issues with food & body image & she considered Molly very brave, facing her issues head on & trying to inspire others to be better. 

Molly’s friends met Josh & had reservations. Molly’s friend Amelia met Josh in January of 2017 while she & Molly worked out together at the gym. She said he wasn’t overly chatty though she still welcomed him because it was her friend’s boyfriend. During their meeting Amelia had made a joke which Josh then used to try to turn Molly against Amelia which immediately put Amelia off of Josh. As time went on, Josh beame even more possessive & controlling. Molly’s friend Amy said that if Molly had a day of studying, Josh would manipulate her to spend more time with him or show up to where she was unannounced. She said that he tried to make her feel that she was just unhappy with everything vs. just unhappy with him. Her friends felt he was trying to keep Molly from spending time with them & isolating her. They also found it odd that Josh found no interest in introducing Molly to his friends.

Molly’s mom said Josh spent most weekends at their family home. So much so that when Father’s Day rolled around, Josh chose to spend the day with Molly’s dad Doug instead of with his own father which they found a little bit strange. Josh also used to play football on a Sunday local team; Molly & her family voiced interest in going to see him play but he would never allow them to attend. They found this strange as well. Molly wondered if he didn’t want any of his teammates to see her or look at her. As the four month mark in their relationship rolled around, Molly’s family noticed changes in Josh’s demeanor. They found him to be increasingly a loner, finding no interests outside of Molly. He also didn’t seem interested in spending time with Molly’s friends. 

Molly had been under a lot of pressure with school & studying & began to feel overwhelmed by her relationship. Her dad said that oftentimes, Josh would turn up uninvited when Molly wanted time to study. He would just lay on her bed as she worked & it seemed he just wanted to know where she was & what she was doing.

Josh even quit his warehouse job so he could spend more time with Molly during her summer break; she was feeling more & more suffocated. Despite this, Molly helped support Josh in finding a new job because she wanted him to be happy. Much bigger issues came to light when Molly & her family went away for a weekend to celebrate her aunt’s 60th birthday. Josh attended & her family started to notice that he would never leave her side during the party to the point that it started to draw attention. Her dad noticed that he seemed resentful & jealous when she was on the dance floor with her cousins. One of her cousins  who had just met Josh that night commented to the family, “I don’t know what it is but I don’t like him.” At the end of the night, they all headed back to the hotel. Molly’s mom was in her own room, her husband/Molly’s dad asleep, when she received a text from Molly, asking her to come to their room, saying, Josh is “playing up.” As her mom went into the room, Josh came at Molly’s mom, trying to hand her a cell phone, saying, “look at this, look at this.” Joanne ignored Josh, asking Molly what was wrong. She told her mom that he was being very strange & recording her. He was trying to push her buttons & then film her reaction. This was the first time Molly’s mom Joanne felt that things really weren’t quite right.

Molly’s friends started to notice that she seemed deflated & worn down; not her usual bubbly self. She went to her mom & told her that she just didn’t feel the same about Josh anymore. She feared his reaction to the breakup but eventually texted Josh saying, “we can’t be with each other 24/7. I feel under pressure.” He responded with a string of abuse and accusations. Josh continued to bombard Molly with texts, pleading with her to give him another chance. Her friends advised her not to take him back though riddled with guilt, she gave him another chance. 

In May of 2017 the couple went on a make or break holiday to Tenerife though even on vacation, things weren’t going well & his control continued.  She texted her friend saying, “It’s the worst thing ever. Help me. Can’t talk about it until I get home but I’m dreading it.” Her friends said during their trip, he just wouldn’t listen to what she had to say, still trying to control her. This only reinforced her need to end things for good. When Josh returned from the trip, co-workers noticed that he was often distressed & agitated, crying & failing to show up to work. As time went on, his attendance was so sporadic that it was agreed he would go down to part time. 

On June 17, 2017, Molly was out with friends to celebrate her 23rd birthday when she & Josh began to argue. A friend said that during their argument, Molly snapped & told Josh she didn’t want to be with him anymore. They watched as he became aggressive & yelled, “she’s just finished with me!” After the breakup her friends noticed that she seemed bubbly again, as if a weight had been lifted. She felt guilty about breaking up with Josh in a public place but was glad it was behind her.

As the days ticked on, Josh’s behavior became more & more irrational. He began posting abusive messages to FB, accusing Molly of being addicted to cocaine, sleeping around & tagged her family & friends on these posts. He also threatened her saying there was “more to come.” Josh also bombarded Molly with messages on WhatsApp. She confided in her friends, telling them, “Josh has turned nasty. I’m scared he might hurt me. He knows my parents are going away for two weeks.” 

Molly’s mom Joanne was so nervous that she passed pictures of Josh to neighbors, asking them to let her know if they’ve seen him around the area. 

On June 22 Molly went to the North Kent police department to report the harassment. Police contacted Josh on speaker phone while Molly & her mom sat in the room. The police officer said, “we’re not going to have to talk about this again, are we?” Josh responded, “aren’t we?” Molly told friends that his voice was very cold during this conversation & only worsened her fears. Josh eventually took the posts down, saying it was only because he didn’t want clients at his new job to find them. During this time, Molly sent texts to her friends that she was “walking on eggshells” & feeling more & more afraid of Josh & what he could be capable of. Police advised Molly & all of her friends to block him on all forms of social media & to avoid any communication with him. 

On June 27, 2017, Josh left work early & went to Asda, a British supermarket chain, to buy a Sabatier paring knife (seen on CCTV) & later that day he headed to Homebase to purchase a pickaxe. The weapons were stowed in his car. 

On June 28, 2017 Molly posted a picture to Snapchat about going to dinner & drinks with friends.  Halfway through dinner they saw Josh walk in with another girl in tow, the group commenting, “what are the odds?”  He walked past Molly & her friends & headed to the smoking area, staring at them from outside over the next few hours, putting the girls on edge. When he left the pub, he was sure to walk past their table despite other exits closer  to where he sat. Molly left before her friends so she could get home to see Love Island & they told her not to worry about “that psycho.” Her friends didn’t walk her to her car, feeling there was no worry that Josh would follow her. This would be the last time they would see Molly alive.

On June 29, Molly woke up & headed to PureGym near her house & planned to film some exercises for her university course. She entered the gym at 10:10am & headed to an upstairs working room that happened to be empty. A few minutes later, CCTV in the gym caught Josh coming up the staircase that led to Molly’s workout room. He walked to the doorway, peeking into the room through the propped open door. He then went about ¾ the way back down the stairs, only to turn around & head back upstairs, this time entering the room where Molly was working out. He grabbed a workout mat & placed it next to Molly & sat down. He then got back up & shifted the mat forward & sat back down to do ab work. 

At 10:59am Molly text her friend Amy a picture of Josh on the workout mat saying, “Wtf. He’s just turned up and come right next to me.” Amy asked if she had posted to Snapchat that she was going to the gym & Molly told her no, “literally haven’t put anything.”  Amy asked, “any indication you could have been there at all? Last night, now today. Starting to look dodgy.” At this point, Molly got up & looked in Josh’s direction, grabbed her drink & walked over to ask him if he was following her but he didn’t reply. She asked him why he wasn’t at work & he told her it wasn’t her business. Josh finished his quick workout, left the room & headed downstairs. He then came back up the stairs & again peered into the workout room before heading down one last time. He could then be seen leaving the gym holding a bottle of sports drink & a backpack over his right arm. Molly headed to the locker room & called her mom, letting her know that Josh showed up at the gym. Her mom told her to come straight home. 

Molly waited in the gym until Josh left, messaging Amy just after 11am, saying “I feel like I am looking over my shoulder all the time. I have left now.”  Amy told her not to initiate any contact with him at all. The last message Amy received at 11:01am said, “I won’t from now on.” 

Unbeknownst to Molly, Josh was waiting in the parking lot. As Molly reached her car just after 11am, she got in & closed the door. At 11:08am, Josh yanked Molly’s car door open & began to attack her, stabbing her 75 times with the paring knife he purchased. A man was walking his dog in the parking lot after dropping his wife off at the cinema & noticed what he initially thought was a fight. As he moved closer, he could see that it appeared that a woman was being attacked by a man in her car. It looked like he was holding something in his hand as she was trying to defend herself; she had her hands up, trying to stop him. The man passed his dog to someone else & saw Josh stabbing Molly with something small, likely a knife. As he got right in front of the car, he could see there was blood in the car & as he got closer, he saw she was being stabbed towards her neck & head. He began banging on the window & the hood of the car to distract Josh, screaming out that “he was killing her” & to call the police. He continued to shout, “He is killing her!” “Stop killing her, stop f**king killing her!” He saw that Josh was trying to cut & slash her neck so he ran to the driver’s side where he saw Josh’s leg hanging out of the car & tried to slam the car door on it but he just moved his leg inside the car & carried on. The man also grabbed Josh’s leg & tried to pull him away but his leg was covered in blood & he couldn’t get a grip. At this point, the man stepped away, feeling there was no way Molly would survive this & didn’t know what else to do. He saw that Molly’s throat had been cut & he said Josh seemed determined to make sure that she was dead. The man ran to get his car so that he could be sure Josh wouldn’t get away. He said that when Josh was through with his attack, he just stood there beside Molly’s car.

Paramedics & police arrived & tried to save Molly but at 11:43 am. Molly was pronounced dead at the scene. Her cause of death was stab & slash wounds to her neck. When the police arrived, Josh stood calmly, his white tank top covered in Molly’s blood, waiting to be arrested. He told police, “she’s in the car. I’ve killed her.” Josh was taken into custody at the North Kent police station. He answered, “no comment” to all questions asked, completely shut down. The murder weapon was quickly recovered from Molly’s car.

Meanwhile Amy got a message from her friends at work, asking if she had seen what happened at the Dockside shopping center. When Amy looked online at the details, she thought how horrific it was but had no idea it was Molly. She tried calling & texting Molly but couldn’t reach her; this is when she began to worry. During Molly’s attack, Amy continued to text her, asking if Josh had always been a member at her gym; these texts were never read. Molly’s mom also received a link to the incident & Joanne immediately knew it was Molly, soon getting confirmation from police.  Doug, Molly’s dad, was on a ship 100 miles off the coast when he received an email from Joanne telling him to call her straightaway. She had to tell Doug the horrific news over the phone. When Doug arrived home, he & Joanne went to the hospital & were able to see Molly’s body; Doug said that without a doubt, it was the worst day of his life, the hardest thing he ever had to do, seeing his daughter on a mortuary gurney, lifeless.

Josh plead not guilty, making the plea for manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. This meant that Molly’s friends & family would be subjected to a trial & all the gory details of her attack. On January 23, 2018, the trial began. Here, two girls Josh had previously dated in the past came forward to testify & Josh’s previous stalkings & threats of violence came to light for her friends & family. They learned that he threatened to fly to where the one girl was on holiday, saying he was going to drown her. She reported this to the Staffordshire police in 2013 but it was never recorded as a crime.  The department has since changed their policy on reports of stalking. He also slashed her tires outside her house. He called the other girl 25 times in one day after a night out together, becoming more & more controlling about spending time with her. He turned up at her house at 2am after a breakup, saying he was there to charge his phone. He also spit in her face at a nightclub. 

To the family’s disbelief, another witness, Amy Scott, came to the stand. She also met Josh through Tinder & hw asked her if she could help him stalk Molly after he had been blocked on social media. She told him that she was a ‘pro stalker’ & kept Josh up-to-date on what Molly was posting. She even told him how he could see Molly’s Snapchat stories without her ever knowing. Family said she seemed proud while speaking on the stand, despite knowing that this resulted in Molly’s death. The two had never met in person but felt they had a connection since they both dealt with bipolar.

After two weeks of trial, on February 6, 2018, the jury took less than 4 hours & came back with a unanimous verdict of guilty of murder & Josh was sentenced to a minimum of 26 years life in prison without the possibility of parole. The act of stalking took control & premediation which was the differences between manslaughter & murder. It also came to light that Josh had no history of bipolar & this had been a lie. During sentencing the judge said that Josh was a highly dangerous young man who would pose a very significant risk to women in the future.  He showed absolutely no remorse for what he had done. Molly’s mom Joanne said that it’s hard to find joy in anything anymore now that half her heart & her baby girl are gone.

July 10, 2018, five months later, Molly’s university hosted graduation for her year; Molly’s parents were guests of honor at the ceremony. They accepted Molly’s diploma & received a standing ovation in the packed cathedral, remembering Molly. Since Molly’s death, her family & friends have set up the Molly McLaren foundation to help those suffering with eating disorders.

Molly’s friends & family urge others to look out for warning signs in their relationships & to go to the police if you’re feeling threatened. The internet & social media has opened up a huge door to stalking their victims. Most of us don’t think twice about posting where we are, where we live. Statistics show that 1 in 5 women will experience stalking at some point in their life. In March of 2019 the Stalking Protection Act was passed in parliament offering greater protection to those being stalked.

Sources:

  1. The Sun: Tragic Text Stalker victim Molly McLaren sent chilling text saying ‘I’m always looking over my f***ing shoulder’ seconds before ex stabbed her 75 times in broad daylight
  2. Crime Documentaries: The Murder of Molly McLaren
  3. YouTube Killed By.. My Ex S2 E2 – Murder of Molly McLaren – True Crime Documentary Series
  4. Kent Live: Who is Joshua Stimpson? The stalker who murdered ex-girlfriend Molly McLaren had ‘two different sides’
  5. Kent Live: A have-a-go hero has described his desperate attempt to stop Joshua Stimpson killing Molly McLaren
  6. Bustle: Joshua Stimpson is still serving his 26 year sentence
  7. Mirror: Molly McLaren’s life brutally cut short by first proper boyfriend who became a Tinder stalker murderer

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