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Molly McLaren's parents tell ITV News how they learned of her brutal murder by the man they welcomed into their home

The parents of Molly McLaren have told ITV News of the moment they received the news their "ray of sunshine" daughter had been murdered by her stalking ex-boyfriend.

For mum Jo McLaren it was confirmation of the fears that had built in her over several hours after a friend of 23-year-old Molly had alerted her to social media reports of an incident in the car park near the Dockside shopping centre in Chatham, Kent on June 29 last year.

Mrs McLaren had spoken to her daughter minutes before and vividly remembers her daughter's anxious final call after her ex-partner Joshua Stimpson followed her to the gym.

"She said, 'Mum he's just turned up'," she recalled. "I said, 'where are you now?'

"She was by the lockers - I said, 'just come home', which I wish I hadn't now, because if she'd stayed there maybe, with people around her, she'd still be here, but I said 'come home'.

"And that was the last time we spoke."

Joshua Stimpson stalked Molly McLaren after their seven-month relationship ended.

Within minutes Stimpson followed Molly out to her car and stabbed her 75 times with a kitchen knife.

Mrs McLaren's concern that her daughter had not returned home after the panicked phonecall soon sunk to despair when she received the message from Molly's friend.

"She just sent me a screenshot of an incident that had happened at Chatham Dockside and I just knew instantly," she said. "I tried to contact Molly again (but) there was no answer."

Mrs McLaren ran to a local shop as the police were called. It was several hours before Mrs McLaren's fears were confirmed as two officers arrived.

"They wouldn't say anything in the shop," she recalled. "They said they needed to bring me home. And I just kicked off in the police car because I just knew."

Jo McLaren said she thought of Molly as a good friend as well as a daughter. Credit: ITV News

"And then when we got in and before we even sat down I said, 'You've just got to tell me' and they said, 'yes it's Molly'."

Mrs McLaren then made the heartbreaking call to her husband, who was working abroad on a drill site 100 miles off the coast of Senegal, and to Molly's older brother Tom.

Father Doug McLaren flew home as their son and his partner drove back home as the family faced the nightmare.

Molly McLaren in her youth. Credit: McLaren family

"I remained stunned even when police met me at Heathrow," Mr McLaren said. "Then (arriving home) it all became a bit real."

Speaking to ITV News ahead of the first anniversary of Molly's death, Mr McLaren said there were "no red flags" about the man they welcomed into their home as Molly's boyfriend after the pair had met on Tinder.

Mrs McLaren admitted being concerned when she learned Stimpson had told Molly he suffered from bi-polar disorder but was reassured by her daughter, who had battled eating disorders, that the young couple understood and supported each other.

Both said Stimpson was quiet and clearly besotted with their daughter.

Now though they look back and see it as the beginning of his obsessive and manipulative behaviour.

Molly McLaren as a child. Credit: McLaren family

"He would just lay on the bed and he would just watch her," Mrs McLaren said. "At the time I (thought) 'oh it's young love they want to be together'.

"But he wanted her company as much as possible."

It was when Molly ended the relationship that Stimpson turned, initially posting a series of defamatory messages online.

Molly reported him to the police and the family watched as officers called Stimpson to warn him off.

Their complaints never led to Stimpson's arrest - while he in turn filed a counter claim the next day against Molly.

Police said no one could have foreseen Molly McLaren's brutal killing.

Detective Chief Inspector Dave Chewter of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said officers had dealt with two instances of derogatory social media posts "appropriately and proportionately by warning Stimpson about his behaviour".

He added: "These were not instances of stalking and were not reported as such. No one could have foreseen Stimpson’s behaviour escalating the way it did."

He confirmed a "thorough multi-agency domestic homicide review" is also now underway to see if any lessons can be learnt from the case.

The McLaren family later learned other forces had investigated Stimpson over his alleged aggressive actions towards previous girlfriends, but nothing went on file.

Molly's brother Tom McLaren's tribute to his sister. Credit: McLaren family

Mr and Mrs McLaren said police did offer their daughter support but believe efforts to strengthen policing of stalking are needed.

"Hopefully things might change and they can do more," Mrs McLaren said.

As a family they had been concerned enough about Stimpson to give pictures to their neighbours to alert them in case he turned up outside the house.

But the scorned stalker - aided by others on social media - easily kept track of his victim's movements in the town.

Mr McLaren said the night before the murder Stimpson turned up uninvited at a restaurant where Molly was eating. Then the next day he fatefully tracked her down to the gym.

Stimpson was jailed in February for at least 26 years for a killing described by the judge as an "execution".

The family said he has never shown remorse or offered any explanation for his actions.

Doug McLaren said Joshua Stimpson has never shown remorse for the killing. Credit: ITV News

"He was very cool and calm apparently," Mr McLaren said. "When he was arrested by police I think his words were, 'she's in the car, I've killed her'.

Mrs McLaren said she tries not to think about Stimpson, instead remembering her daughter as the "sunshine in our life", who was "intelligent and beautiful inside and out".

But asked what she thought drove him to kill, Mrs McLaren said: "The only thing I can think is he couldn't take rejection. And he couldn't get himself back in her life."