Tinder stalker victim, 23, stabbed 75 times by Stoke-on-Trent ex after sending chilling text

Molly McLaren's life was cut tragically short by her stalker ex-boyfriend Joshua Stimpson who hailed from Stoke-on-Trent. Her story is the subject of Channel 5 docuseries Stalked: Murder In Slow Motion which will air at 10pm tonight. Here StokeonTrentLive takes a look back at Molly's senseless killing...

At just 23-years-old 'beautiful and intelligent' Molly McLaren had her whole life ahead of her. Filled with anticipation about what the future might hold, she swiped to the right on her Tinder match.

It was that seemingly innocuous decision that set off a chain of horrific events that ended up with her being murdered in the wickedest of circumstances by her Stoke-on-Trent ex Joshua Stimpson.

“She never really had a lot of boyfriends. She was quite passionate about finding the right person,” says best friend Amy Lee.

“For her it wasn't about being in a relationship because everyone else was or because she felt she should be. It was very much about connecting with someone on a personal level.”

READ: ITV Social Media Murderers tells story of Stoke-on-Trent Tinder killer who stabbed his ex 75 times Molly McLaren was killed in a frenzied attack by stalker Joshua Stimpson

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At first 26-year-old Joshua - who grew up in Stoke-on-Trent but was living just nine miles from Molly in Kent at the time - seemed to be perfect boyfriend material. The pair spoke for 'quite some time' before finally meeting up a few months later.

For Molly, it was her first serious relationship and they shared a love of exercise and similar struggles in life.

Speaking about Molly and Joshua's relationship for a three-part C5 documentary called Stalked: Murder in Slow Motion which is repeated on Channel 5 last night, Amy said: “They realised they had what seemed to be quite a lot in common in the sense of the anxiety and struggles they had been through.

"He said to Molly he had also struggled with anxiety and depression and they kind of connected on that level. She almost felt as though she needed to help him through his situation and he in return was helping her.”

But after several months of dating, the relationship became strained due to Stimpson becoming increasingly controlling. Molly described his behaviour as 'childish' and said she felt she was 'constantly treading on egg shells' around him.

She is said to have added: "It's just pathetic. I just feel really pressured with you at the moment if I'm honest."

On a night out in Maidstone, Molly took Stimpson to one side and broke up with him - to be met with an angry reaction. When Molly refused to take Stimpson back, he quickly 'turned nasty'. He started posting insulting Facebook messages and claimed she had been taking drugs five days after they had broken up.

University friend Amelia Davis told the cameras: "Molly was distraught. She sent me screenshots of the online abuse. This was while we were not at university and I wanted to be there for her. I thought that was going to be the end of it and he was gong to leave her alone."

But Stimpson continued his abuse over WhatsApp and Molly grew terrified he would turn up to her home. The documentary shows a series of texts sent from Molly to her friends, including 'I'm scared he might hurt me'. She also told friends: "He knows my parents are going away for two weeks."

Molly reported the posts to Facebook but nothing happened, so she went with her mother Joanna to North Kent Police Station. A police officer called Stimpson in their presence, put him on speakerphone and warned him to stop or face prosecution.

When the officer said: "We wouldn't want Molly to come to the police station again about you, would we?", Stimpson replied: "Wouldn't we?"

Stimpson was spoken to by police for a second time on June 27, 2017. The following day, he turned up at a bar where she was with friends. Molly had told friends: "I am actually scared of what he might do, I’m scared he might hurt me."

Terrified by his behaviour, Molly and her mum printed pictures of Stimpson and handed them out to neighbours so they could keep a look out for him in case he turned up.

She had blocked him from all her social media accounts - Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram - and friends had done the same. But little did they know, sick Stimpson had recruited another girl to follow Molly on social media and report back to him with her every move.

Friends told the cameras Molly had become spooked when Stimpson turned up at a bar in Chatham dockside, where they had met for a celebratory dinner.

Amy said: "He turned up with another girl. We said 'how strange, what are the odds?' We said to Molly 'what a shame that you had to be here to witness him going on another date but she said 'I'm not jealous and that's how I know I'm not in love with him anymore'."

But it wasn't a coincidence and the next morning, Stimpson followed Molly to her gym at Chatham Dockside Outlet. He turned up and began working out right next to her in silence. When she asked him why he wasn't at work he said 'it's none of your business'. Minutes later he left.

Molly messaged her mum saying: "Mum he's turned up at the gym and come next to me", before phoning her. Her mother told her to go straight home. In a flurry of messages to friend Amy, Molly wrote: "I’m always looking over my f***ing shoulder."

She was warned not to communicate with her 'freak' ex and to 'stay away from him'. But moments after her chilling text, horror struck.

Molly left Pure Gym at 11.01am still on her phone and got into her Citroen C2. Stimpson had tailed her around the car park in his father's Peugeot. He parked in an adjacent aisle and went to Molly's car.

He then pulled open her driver's door and what followed was an act of wickedness. Stimpson stabbed Molly at least 75 times and her throat was completely cut through.

Molly lost consciousness within seconds and nothing could be done to save her. Heroic dog walker Benjamin Morton desperately tried to stop Stimpson in the middle of his frenzied attack.

"I was shouting 'stop killing her, stop f***ing killing her'. The attack just carried on. She was still trying to protect herself but it was obvious she was getting weaker. He was trying to cut her throat. He seemed to be slashing, cutting at her neck.

"No one else was coming so I thought I had to try and do something. I moved around to the driver's side where he was sitting, leaning across attacking her. I could see his leg was sticking out the door. I tried to slam the door on his leg to distract him, to stop him.

"I slammed the door on his leg and he noticed because he moved his leg inside the car. But then he just carried on. The door hadn't shut because his leg was in the way so I moved around and I grabbed his leg to see if I could pull him.

"His leg was covered in blood and my hands slipped off. At that point I stepped back and didn't know what else I could do. I looked inside the car and I could see that she had her throat cut. He seemed determined to make sure she was dead.

"He wasn't stabbing her, he was cutting at her throat at this point, just to make sure she would never come back. I looked at her and I thought 'I don't think there is anything else I can do. She isn't going to survive this'.

Police bodycam footage showed officers arriving at the scene to find Stimpson covered in blood on June 29, 2017.

Stimpson denied murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility but was found guilty in February last year and jailed for life, with a minimum term of 26 years.

Sentencing Stimpson, Judge Adele Williams, told him he may never be released and said: "This was a cruel, calculated and cowardly act. This was an act of wickedness.

“You took away Molly’s life quite deliberately in the most vicious fashion. You were determined to punish her for ending the relationship with you. You were seeking revenge. She was 23 years old, beautiful and intelligent. Her family’s grief and anguish is raw and apparent for everyone to see. You are a highly-dangerous young man and you will pose a very considerable risk to women for a very considerable period in the future."

In a statement, her family said there needs to be more awareness of online stalking, and praised have-a-go hero Ben, who tried to stop Stimpson.

They said: "The last six months have been horrid beyond belief. We couldn't have got through it without the love and support of family and friends.

"The number of Molly's friends has staggered us, the like of which we have never known. "Those that have visited and shared in our pain have been a great help. The full extent of the digital stalking of Molly by Joshua Stimpson may never be known.

"We would like to thank Benjamin Moreton for his brave efforts at the car park when he tried to intervene, and hope one day to thank him personally.

"The contrast in morality between these two people could not be more profound.

"However, in light of this case, we feel that there needs to be more awareness over the dangers of stalking and the need for people to report any concerns over stalking to the police."

Molly's family have set up a charity in her name to help people with eating disorders.

They added: "The verdict has brought us a small measure of comfort, but it seems that nothing will take away the pain or allow us to come to terms with our Molly being taken from us. We are serving a lifetime of pain, anguish and loss.

"This has affected so many people's lives and our hearts go out to each and every one of you. Our focus now turns to making sure Molly will live on through The Molly McLaren Foundation, helping people with eating disorders.

"Thank you all for your ongoing support with this. A light has gone out in all of our hearts but shines bright as a star forever glowing. We love you Molly."

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.

"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.

"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. 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.

Stalked: Murder in Slow Motion is on Channel 5 tonight (April 30) at 10pm.

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