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Monday, 22 October 2018

Man admits murder of midwife Samantha Eastwood in bout of 'intense rage'

Written by Richard Vernalls

A man has pleaded guilty to murdering a midwife in a bout of "intense rage" after having a "long-standing affair" with her, a court heard.

The body of 28-year-old Samantha Eastwood was discovered in a shallow grave in a rural area near Caverswall, Staffordshire, in August, wrapped in a duvet, with tape around her eyes and face.

Michael Stirling, the brother-in-law of the victim's ex-fiance John Peake, appeared via video link on Monday when he admitted murder.

The 32-year-old, sporting a full beard, was sat at a table, wearing a dark grey T-shirt, as Miss Eastwood's mother, sister, and Mr Peake watched from the public gallery at Northampton Crown Court.

After Stirling (pictured) entered his plea, his barrister Charles Miskin QC addressed the court to provide the basis of that plea.

He said: "This was not a pre-meditated act.

"The context of the killing was a background of growing tension arising from a long-standing, but not particularly intense affair."

He said that on the afternoon of the killing "various things were said" between the two, leading to a row.

Mr Miskin added: "There was an argument in that context and led to him being very angry.

"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."

Mr Miskin said: "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."

He added: "He 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 aftermath 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."

The defendant, the court also heard, had "never been in any sort of trouble", prior to murdering Miss Eastwood.

Stirling, of Gratton Road, Bucknall, Stoke-on-Trent, admitted killing the victim between July 26 and August 5 at Baddeley Green, in Stoke.

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

He added: "There were searches made on a laptop, two days before the killing.

"The subject matter appears to relate to research into methods by which one might kill oneself, in particular using carbon monoxide, or involving suffocation and involving ingestion of poison, specifically anti-freeze."

Mr Hankin added Stirling had a "history of mental health problems" as recently as 2015, and asked for permission through the court, from the defendant, to access his medical records.

Stirling was remanded in custody to appear at Stafford Crown Court for sentencing on December 3.

Addressing Stirling, Mrs Justice Carr said: "Mr Stirling, you have now pleaded guilty to the charge of murdering Samantha Eastwood and we will now proceed to sentence.

"I'll adjourn for further investigations and finals arrangements for that."

Speaking afterwards, Detective Inspector Dan Ison of Staffordshire Police, said: "I am obviously very pleased that Michael Stirling has found it within himself today to plead guilty to the murder of Samantha Eastwood.

"It has saved a lot of heartache for the family to have them not have to go through a trial.

"So I am pleased and now look forward for sentencing to take place."

He added Miss Eastwood's family were still "very upset", and her mother, sister and ex-fiance all left the court in a black cab without speaking to reporters.

Mr Ison added: "It's been awful for them.

"Obviously Michael Stirling was known to the family and part of their wider friendship (group) and relatives, and he's lied to them lied to the police.

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

"It's been difficult for them, so to hear a degree of the detail today has been significant for them and hopefully will provide some answers and they look forward to some more (answers) on December 3."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Staffordshire Police / PA Wire.