In Brief

Samantha Eastwood: what we know about the midwife’s murder

Police compare killer Michael Stirling to Soham murderer Ian Huntley

The 32-year-old man who murdered midwife Samantha Eastwood was likened to child killer Ian Huntley as he was sentenced to life in prison yesterday.

Michael Stirling was given a minimum jail term of almost 17 years after admitting to the killing of 28-year-old Eastwood, with whom he had been having an affair.

Described by police as “arrogant and callous”, the married killer smothered and strangled his victim during an argument after she returned home from a night shift at Royal Stoke University Hospital on 27 July.

He then bundled her body into his van and drove to his parents’ house for dinner, where he was “fine and cheerful”, reports The Daily Telegraph

Stirling, a landscape gardener, later disposed of the body in undergrowth on the edge of the Staffordshire Moorland, before joining in the search for Eastwood.

He “comforted her family and sent messages from her phone so people would think she was still alive”, reports the BBC

He sent a series of texts “from Eastwood” to her sister that said she having a nervous breakdown and needed some “me time”, Stafford Crown Court heard.

One said “please leave me alone”, while another suggested she had met a “guy off the internet” and was being driven towards the motorway.

Eastwood's body was discovered, wrapped in a duvet with tape covering her eyes and mouth, beside a country lane eight days after she disappeared.

She had been having an “intimate” affair with Stirling for three years, the court heard. She had also been engaged to his wife’s brother but had called off their engagement months earlier.

Handing out the sentence, Justice Sue Carr said Stirling had engaged in a “sophisticated and mendacious cover-up” and “weaved an extraordinary web of deception”.

She said: “Samantha was alone in her home where she should have been safe and sound, and trusted you in her house. On any view, she suffered what must have been a terrifying assault resulting in a killing that was not immediate.

“In the agonising hours and days following her death you lied and lied, over and over again, in an attempt to cover up what you had done.”

Stirling was initially arrested two days after Eastwood was reported missing by concerned colleagues but was released under investigation. Four days later, on 2 August, he inadvertently led police to her body.

Detective Inspector Dan Ison, the officer in charge of the case, told news site Stoke-on-Trent Live: “His behaviour on August 2 was suspicious to say the least. He was observed on a bicycle which he secreted in a hedge and he ran off.

“I knew his phone had been in that area on the night she went missing. We had a 1,000 metre radius as to where she might be. We started searching on the Saturday and, within an-hour-and-a-half, we found her body.” 

Stirling was re-arrested on 4 August and pleaded guilty to murder in October.

Ison added: “It is my opinion that he is a cruel man. Arrogant and callous. I say that, not lightly, because I felt that his actions were cruel to the family in that he sent messages from Samantha's phone the next day, which tends to suggest she was still alive.

“To go to that level of deceit, it's unthinkable really. I liken his actions to that of Ian Huntley.”

Huntley is currently serving life in prison with a minimum of 40 years for the 2002 murders of ten-year-old schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham, Cambridgeshire. In the days after their disappearance he appeared on television speaking about the shock and grief of the local community.

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