Michael Stirling in court on midwife Samantha Eastwood murder charge

image source, Samantha Eastwood
image captionSamantha Eastwood's family has thanked members of the public for their support

A man has appeared in court charged with the murder of 28-year-old midwife Samantha Eastwood.

Michael Stirling, of Gratton Road, Bucknall, was remanded in custody after appearing at North Staffordshire Justice Centre earlier.

The body of Ms Eastwood was discovered in rural ground near Caverswall, Staffordshire, on Saturday, eight days after she was reported missing.

Mr Stirling, 32, is the brother-in-law of Ms Eastwood's ex-fiancé John Peake.

image source, PA
image captionMichael Stirling was remanded in custody after a brief hearing at North Staffordshire Justice Centre

The charge states that Mr Stirling allegedly murdered Ms Eastwood between 26 July and 5 August at Baddeley Green.

At the hearing, he spoke only to confirm his name, address and date of birth. No members of Ms Eastwood's family were present.

Mr Stirling will next appear via video link at Stafford Crown Court on 8 August.

Two men, aged 60 and 28, arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender have been released on conditional bail.

image source, Michael Stirling/ Facebook
image captionMr Stirling will next appear at Stafford Crown Court via video link

Ms Eastwood was last seen in uniform leaving work at Royal Stoke University Hospital on the morning of 27 July.

Staffordshire Police said a post-mortem examination had taken place but further tests were required.

Gemma Eastwood went to her sister's home to take away some of the cards people had left.

Ex-fiancé, John Peake, 34, also arrived carrying a bunch of flowers before both were driven away by police.

image source, PA
image captionGemma Eastwood went to her sister's home where floral tributes and messages had been left
image source, PA
image captionEx-fiancé John Peake arrived at Samantha Eastwood's home with flowers

A fundraising page has been set up to help Ms Eastwood's family with funeral costs and has, so far, raised over £3,700.

People who knew the midwife have been leaving tributes on the page.

Rachel Duncker said: "Having volunteered at Brownies with Samantha, it was clear to see what a caring, lovely person she was. My thoughts are with her family at this awful time."

image captionTributes to the midwife have been left outside Royal Stoke University Hospital

Gemma Fox added: "Sam was such an amazing midwife and I'm so grateful to have had the privilege of working with her during my training.

"I'm sure she will never be forgotten by the colleagues and patients whose lives she touched."

Claire Turner said: "Sam helped me recently in hospital though a very difficult time, I'm shocked and upset with what's happened to her, so I wanted to do something to help her family at this extremely difficult and sad time."

Beth Taylor, who launched the site, said: "Samantha was a lovely young woman who helped to bring so many lives into this world.

"She had a bright future ahead of her and sadly this was taken away far too soon."

image source, Helen Tipper
image captionMr Stirling is the brother-in-law of Ms Eastwood's former fiancé John Peake

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