A man who stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death in a shopping centre car park became “desperate” to avoid abandonment after his mother left when he was a teenager, a court heard.
A psychiatrist told Maidstone Crown Court on Thursday he believed Joshua Stimpson’s feelings of abandonment after his parents split up and his mother moved away were “relevant” when looking at how
he treated girlfriends later in life when their relationships broke down.
The 26-year-old is standing trial accused of murder after carrying out a frenzied attack on university student Molly McLaren, 23, with a kitchen knife as she sat in her car on June 29 last year.
Molly McLaren’s Citroen C2 at the scene of the killing (Kent Police/PA)
Covered in blood, Stimpson was arrested shortly afterwards in the car park at the Dockside retail outlet in Chatham, Kent. She was killed less than two weeks after she ended their relationship.
Stimpson admits manslaughter by diminished responsibility, but denies murder.
Dr Shahid Majid, a consultant at the Trevor Gibbens clinic in Maidstone, was called to the witness box after jurors were told warehouse worker Stimpson would not be giving evidence in his own defence.
Dr Majid assessed Stimpson, who was moved to Thornford Park psychiatric hospital in Berkshire from being on remand in Elmley Prison after being charged, and described him as having a “borderline
Discussing his referral to mental health professionals at the age of 12 because he was “tearful” and had “low mood” a year after his parents split up, he said: “All these changes have somehow been
too much for Joshua to cope with.
“The [feeling of] abandonment of his mother leaving was more significant than it might have been for others.”
In the years that followed, there were a string of referrals to Kingsley House mental health clinic in Gillingham, Kent.
During this time, Stimpson expressed problems with depression and refused counselling on several occasions but was prescribed anti-depressants, the court heard.
He had thoughts about ending his life, struggled with self-esteem and confidence. He was often confined to his room, jurors were told.
In a “flurry of activity” in 2013, he was in contact with the clinic on numerous occasions but failed to attend a series of appointments and at one point did not seem to be responding to medication.
By 2015 he was back in contact with doctors.
Dr Majid said: “I think he was refusing counselling because by this time he had started to think that there was something wrong with him.
“I think he was hoping the simple fix was to take a tablet and it would be fine. But his symptoms were much more complex.”
Stimpson, dressed in a grey jacket and white shirt, sat motionless surrounded by four psychiatric nurses as he listened to details of his past read aloud in court.
Alexandra Dale and Leah Hubbard, who both dated Stimpson, previously told the court of his “strange behaviour” which made them feel uncomfortable.
Dr Majid said he had a “hypersensitivity to any reject+ion” and was “desperate to avoid abandonment”, adding: “In relationships he is setting out on a dangerous pathway because of his personality disorder.”
He said his relationship with Ms McLaren had been his longest so the “feelings of abandonment would have been much more intense” and when the relationship broke down he “quickly switches to ‘I’m
going to cope with this by controlling, frightening, harming her’.
“He had thoughts of harming Molly McLaren the previous day [before she died]. I suspect he had been struggling with such thoughts for a period of time and may or may not have been trying to find
a way to copy with these thoughts.
“We can all relate to relationships that have gone wrong where you feel jealous. The actions he has taken and the intensity are way beyond what would be considered normal.”
When asked whether it was more than likely Stimpson had an “abnormality of mental function” at the time he killed Ms McLaren, Dr Majid replied: “Yes I believe he did have, and does have, an abnormality
of mental function.”
But he said he did not believe the disorder would have impaired Stimpson’s understanding of the nature of what he was doing, or his ability to form a rational judgment.
He told the court it would have had an “impact on his judgment and decisions in the run up to the incident and during the incident” and he would be less able to assert self-control.
The court heard Stimpson believed he had bipolar disorder, but Dr Majid said he could not find evidence of symptoms consistent with the condition and there were periods when he “could be functioning
He added: “I don’t think that’s pretend or being dishonest. He wasn’t suffering from a severe depressive illness or bipolar, but he was suffering from rapid changes in mood.”
The trial continues.