A Kent man who stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death after they worked out together has been jailed for life.
Joshua Stimpson, 26, was early found guilty of murdering Molly McLaren in what police described as a "merciless and pre-planned attack" in a shopping centre car park.
The court heard that Stimpson, who will serve a minimum of 26 years before being considered for parole, stabbed McLaren more than 75 times, causing significant injuries to her face, neck and arms as she sat in her car in Chatham on June 29 last year.
Stimpson, of Rochester, admitted killing the 23-year-old but denied murder, claiming he was suffering from diminished responsibility and could not remember the incident or the two previous weeks.
In the days before McLaren's death, Stimpson was witnessed on CCTV buying the murder weapon – a four-inch knife – and attending the same bar as her. Further footage showed him attending the same gym as McLaren and setting up an exercise mat beside her.
Stimpson left shortly before 11am, and McLaren sent a message to her friends saying: "Feel like I’m… looking over my shoulder all the time."
Stimpson waited in his car and watched the entrance of the gym until she entered the car park. He pulled near to her vehicle as she prepared to drive home, left his car with the engine running, approached McLaren's car and opened the door, lunging at her with the knife.
One man tried to restrain Stimpson, even pulling at his leg, but the attack continued and McLaren was left with mortal wounds, despite the efforts of emergency services personnel to save her. A box cutter and a pickaxe were found in Stimpson's car when police arrived.
Police have released footage of Stimpson being arrested, his gym clothes covered in blood.
'You wanted revenge'
During the trial, the court heard that McLaren had met Stimpson on Tinder and they had dated for seven months, before McLaren broke up with Stimpson just two weeks before her death . He then proceeded to bombard her with abuse on social media.
Judge Adele Williams, sentencing, told Stimpson "you were determined to punish her for finishing with you. You were seeking revenge."
Following the verdict, 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.
"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."
'The full extent of the stalking may never be known'
A statement from McLaren’s family 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.
"We would like to thank Kent Police for their diligence collecting and collating the evidence. We would also like to thank the prosecution team for expediting the due process of the law.
"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 carpark 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.
"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."