Every week, two women like Molly McLaren are murdered by current or ex-boyfriends in England and the UK—and reporting to authorities often offers little protection.
Photo courtesy of Kent Police
In the UK, the trial continues of a 26-year-old man who stabbed his girlfriend to death in a car park in broad daylight; just a week after she reported him to police for harassment.
Two weeks before her death on June 29, 2017, Molly McLaren had ended her seven-month relationship with Joshua Stimpson. The pair had met on Tinder, the Independent reports, but McLaren had ended the relationship on a night out after becoming frustrated with Stimpson’s behavior.
“I just feel really pressured with you at the moment if I’m honest,” she said to him in a text message shortly before they broke up. Other messages described him as “childish,” and making her feel like she was “constantly treading on egg shells” in his presence.
After the break-up, Stimpson posted derogatory comments and photos of McLaren online, alleging illegal drug use, according to the Independent. In comments to Maidstone Crown Court, prosecutors detailed a pattern of escalating and erratic behavior, described in McLaren’s own words.
“He’s literally lost the plot,” she told friends. “I was worried he was going to turn up at my house. I’m actually scared of what he might do to me. He knows my parents are going away for two weeks.” She also reportedly told friends that Stimpson was “manipulative” and had begun threatening her.
Days before her death, on June 22, McLaren reported him to police. A police officer called Stimpson and said, “We wouldn’t want Molly to come to the police station again about you, would we?” He responded, “Wouldn’t we?”
On the day she died, McLaren had gone to work out at a local gym, when Stimpson arrived and put his mat down next to her.
Terrified, she reportedly asked him if he was following her, and then called her mother and texted her friends for help. “[I’m] looking over my shoulder all the time” she told a friend on WhatsApp. “Mum he’s turned up at the gym and come next to me,” she texted her mother, who advised her to go home immediately.
Moments later, as McLaren sat in her car, Stimpson stabbed her repeatedly in the head and neck with a paring knife he’d purchased two days earlier. A witness who tried to intervene to protect McLaren described Stimpson as being “in a frenzy.”
Stimpson’s case is ongoing: Prosecutors are pushing for a murder charge, while his defense admits manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.
In comments sent via email, Kent Police told Broadly that they are investigating how McLaren’s complaint was handled. “Following the death of Molly McLaren Kent Police made a referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) relating to previous contact between the force and Miss McLaren. The referral was mandatory and the IOPC subsequently determined it is appropriate for Kent Police to investigate locally. The IOPC will be updated on any outcome, which is expected following the conclusion of criminal proceedings.“
Meawhile, McLaren’s death, while horrific, is not unique. Globally, femicide is one of the biggest killers of women: 66,000 women annually, comprising 17 percent of all homicides. These violent acts are overwhelmingly committed by men close to the victims—boyfriends, husbands, brothers, fathers. In England and Wales, on average two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week. In the USA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 55 percent of female homicide victims were linked to male partner violence—and that 10 percent of these cases might have been preventable with early intervention.
And like McLaren, many female victims of violence are stalked before their deaths. In the US, 76 percent of intimate partner femicide victims were stalked by their intimate partners before being murdered, according to the National Centre for Victims of Crime's Stalking Research Center. Many of these women, like McLaren, turned to the authorities in ultimately futile attempts to secure protection. 54 percent of femicide victims reported being stalked to police before being killed.
"Too often, the police and media treat the killing of women as an isolated incident 'with no further threat to the public,' rather than as a pattern," Polly Neate of Women's Aid told Broadly in 2017. "But it is important to indicate the relationship between victims and the perpetrators, otherwise we are missing the fact that women are being killed with alarming frequency by people they should trust the most."