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Midwife’s body found in shallow grave, court told

Samantha Eastwood was discovered in a rural area near Caverswall, Staffordshire, eight days after going missing.

A midwife was found in a shallow grave, wrapped in a duvet cover and with tape around her eyes and face, a court has heard.

The body of Samantha Eastwood, 28, was discovered in a rural area near Caverswall, Staffordshire, on Saturday – eight days after going missing.

Michael Stirling, 32, appeared at Stafford Crown Court on Wednesday charged with murdering the popular Royal Stoke Hospital worker.

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Michael Stirling, 32, leaves North Staffordshire Magistrates’ Court in Newcastle-under-Lyme after an earlier hearing (Peter Byrne/PA)

Appearing from HMP Dovecote via video-link, wearing a high-vis vest and a grey T-shirt, he spoke only to confirm his name, age and nationality and that he understood the proceedings.

Stirling, of Gratton Road, Bucknall, Stoke-on-Trent, is the brother-in-law of Miss Eastwood’s ex-fiance, John Peake, and is accused of murdering the midwife between July 26 and August 5 at Baddeley Green, Stoke.

Jonas Hankin QC, prosecuting, told the court the ongoing investigation into the midwife’s death was “complex” and meant a provisional trial date early in 2019 was unlikely to remain in place.

The court heard that Miss Eastwood had been found in a shallow grave, with masking tape around her face and eyes, and had been wrapped inside a single duvet cover.

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Colleagues of popular midwife Samantha Eastwood gather round floral tributes (Aaron Chown/PA)

A preliminary post-mortem examination did not reveal any gunshot, stab or penetrating wounds, and further analysis of neck bones was due to be carried out, Judge Michael Challinor QC was also told.

CCTV footage, telephone evidence and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) data are also set to form part of the evidence at trial.

Defence barrister Samina Rashid made no application for bail and Stirling was not required to enter any plea.

He was remanded in custody to appear at Northampton Crown Court for a plea hearing on October 5.

His trial date was also provisionally set for February 4 next year, but the judge told him that the complexities of the case meant that date was unlikely to remain fixed.

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Samantha Eastwood’s sister, Gemma, visited her sibling’s home on Monday to look at flowers and collect some of the cards and keepsakes (Richard Vernalls/PA)

Two other men, aged 28 and 60, who were arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender, remain on conditional police bail while inquiries continue.

On Monday, Miss Eastwood’s younger sister, Gemma, visited her sibling’s home to take away some of the many flowers and keepsakes left by NHS colleagues, neighbours and members of the public.

In a statement issued through Staffordshire Police, the midwife’s family said: “We would like to say thank you to all the people who followed Samantha’s story and tried their best to help.”

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