Stoke & Staffordshire

Samantha Eastwood: Man admits murdering midwife after affair

Samantha Eastwood Image copyright Samantha Eastwood
Image caption Samantha Eastwood was missing for over a week before her body was found in a shallow grave

A man has admitted murdering a midwife following a "longstanding" affair.

The body of Samantha Eastwood, 28, was found in a shallow grave in Caverswall, Staffordshire, in August, eight days after she went missing.

Michael Stirling, 32, the brother-in-law of her ex-fiance John Peake, pleaded guilty to her murder when he appeared at Northampton Crown Court.

He was remanded in custody and will be sentenced at Stafford Crown Court on 3 December.

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

Her body was discovered on 5 August wrapped in a duvet cover with tape covering her eyes and mouth, a previous hearing was told.

Staffordshire Police said a post-mortem examination has taken place, but further tests are required to confirm her cause of death.

Image copyright Staffordshire Police
Image caption Michael Stirling pleaded guilty to murdering Samantha Eastwood

After Stirling entered his plea, his defence barrister Charles Miskin QC said the murder "was not a premeditated act".

"The context of the killing was a background of growing tension arising from a longstanding, but not particularly intense, affair," he added.

Mr Miskin said that on the afternoon of the killing "various things were said" between the two.

"There was an argument in that context and that led to him being very angry," he added.

"After a struggle and while she was on the floor, he put his hands over her throat, her mouth and nose, and as a result of that she died.

"During his intense rage, he originally intended to cause her really serious bodily harm, but matters escalated and he carried out the intention to kill her."

Image caption Tributes to the midwife had been left outside Royal Stoke University Hospital, where she worked

Mr Miskin said Stirling "panicked afterwards and buried her in an area of which he had some knowledge".

"He entirely accepts that he tried, wholly dishonestly, to mislead others in the afternoon after the killing.

"He is absolutely horrified about what happened and is deeply sorry, not for himself, but for all the others who are victims of this crime."

Prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC said that two days before the murder Stirling had researched methods on how to "kill oneself".

He told the court Stirling had a history of mental health problems as recently as 2015.

Stirling, of Gratton Road, Bucknall, Stoke-on-Trent, admitted murdering Ms Eastwood between 26 July and 5 August at Baddeley Green, Stoke-on-Trent.

Ms Eastwood's mother, sister and ex-fiancé John Peake watched from the public gallery as he entered his plea via video-link.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Samantha Eastwood's body was found in a shallow grave in Caverswall, eight days after she went missing

Det Insp Dan Ison said Stirling's guilty plea had "saved a lot of heartache for the family".

"Obviously Michael Stirling was known to the family and he's lied to them and lied to police.

"They haven't known, on occasion, who to believe."

Police previously said two other men aged 28 and 60 who were arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender over the death are to face no further action.

Since the midwife's death, well-wishers have raised more than £15,800 to help her family with funeral costs.

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