The case of Molly McLaren: The student murdered by her ex outside the gym
Police found Josh Stimpson covered in blood in a gym carpark after stabbing her 75 times
Josh and Molly matched on Tinder July 2016. We don’t know what she saw in him to swipe right. They chatted on the app and progressed to messaging regularly before they met for the first time in November. Before she met up with him, Molly had told her mum she was nervous about seeing him for the first time, but after they met he seemed normal.
He was open about his bi-polar disorder although it had never been formally diagnosed. This bothered Molly, but she never saw any changed moods or had any reason to be concerned about his behaviour.
Just months before meeting her, Josh had stalked two other girls. He’d slashed the tyres of Alex Dale, a girl he met on Tinder, incessantly calling her and following her to take pictures of her outfits when they weren’t together.
A few weeks later, he’d become obsessed with another girl, Leah, showing up uninvited to her flat at 2am to “charge his phone” after she tried to break up with him.
Molly didn’t know about either of these girls. All she knew was the guy she liked enough to date for a few months. She thought it was odd that he never introduced her to his friends, but not enough of a red flag to call the whole thing off.
It wasn’t until March the next year, that she thought about breaking up with him. She told her mum she was “bored” and was thinking about breaking up with him, but after a while apart she got back together with Josh, even meeting his family. They described her as “a good influence” on their son.
Their first big fight came in April. Josh had been videoing Molly without her knowing, saying he wanted to have proof in case they ever fought.
The relationship was on the rocks and by the time Molly came back from a trip to Tenerife with her friends, she was certain that she wanted out.
She told her mum she had “no feelings” for Josh any more and finally broke off their relationship on June 17th. Less than two weeks later she was dead.
Former colleagues of Josh described two completely different sides to him. One, a charming bright man, who stood out by “a mile” when he applied for a job as a double glazing salesman. The other, a depressed irrational loner who “couldn’t engage in conversation and when distressed would cry for no reason.”
It was this side of Josh that had reared its head over and over again. In the relationships he’d ended just before matching Molly, both girls felt scared by his obsessive behaviour, both girls had to threaten to involve police to get him to leave them alone.
Three days after Molly broke up with Josh, he went to ASDA to buy a small kitchen knife. He then went to Homebase to buy a pickaxe. He kept these weapons in his car until the day of the murder.
In the 12 days between their breakup and Molly’s murder, Josh became more and more irrational.
He started posting abusive messages on Molly’s Facebook timeline. He accused her of dabbling with cocaine and threatened that there was “more to come.”
Molly reported the harassment to police in North Kent, who called Stimpson. Josh eventually agreed to take down the posts, but only because he didn’t want clients at his new job to find them.
Around this time, Molly texted her friends saying that she felt she was “walking on eggshells” and feeling more and more scared of Josh.
The night before her death, she was at a pub with her friends when he walked in with a new girl. He strode straight past Molly and her friends to the smoking area, but spent the next few hours staring at them from outside.
As she left, her friends told her not to worry about “that psycho”. It was the last time they saw her alive.
Molly woke up early on July 29th. Studying Exercise Science at the University of Kent, she got in her Citroen C2 and drove to the PureGym near her house. She entered the gym at 10:10 AM, planning to film some exercises she had to do for her course.
She headed upstairs to a workout room, there was no-one else there that early in the morning.
A few minutes later, Josh arrived upstairs. He picked up an exercise mat and started to stretch right next to where Molly was working out. She stopped what she was doing to confront him. She asked him if he was following her, he didn’t reply.
CCTV footage released by Kent police captured some of Holly’s last moments.
The last few minutes of Molly’s life were frantic. As she packed up and left the room that Josh was in, she texted her friends and her mum saying that he had followed her to the gym.
A video shows Josh close to Molly and exercising next to her. Thinking Josh has left, Molly hurried downstairs, packed up her stuff and headed to her car. CCTV shows that Josh was in fact pacing around upstairs, agitated.
Molly made it outside and got to her car. She was texting her friend Amy Lee who was telling her to get out and get back home as soon as possible. She told her that she felt like she “was looking over my fucking shoulder the whole time.
Because she was texting, she didn’t see Josh walk to his car, pick up the paring knife and start walking towards her.
She had just messaged Amy when Josh appeared at the side of her car.
The Tab has reproduced Molly McLaren’s last texts to her friend, which can be seen in this video:
He forced her driver door open and before she could drive off or put her hands up to defend herself, he started stabbing.
He inflicted 75 individual stab wounds on Molly in a matter of minutes. A bystander, who tried to stop the attack, saw Josh slashing at her head and neck over and over again. He banged on the bonnet and windows to try and distract him, even slamming a door into his leg in an attempt to save Molly.
After he was done, and it was clear that Molly was dead, Josh calmly walked away from her car, his white shirt soaked with her blood. The man who’d tried to stop the attack had tried to block in Josh’s car to stop him escaping.
But he wasn’t interested in escaping. When police arrived, Josh was calm and seemingly unaffected by the horror he’d caused. He wiped the blood away from his face, slowly walked towards officers and said “you want me.”
He was taken into custody and denied murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility, but a jury found him guilty and, seven months after the brutal attack, he was sentenced to 26 years in prison.
While the family say that the verdict offers them a small measure of comfort, in a statement they said they’re serving “a lifetime of pain, anguish and loss.”