Murderer Michael Stirling has today been sentenced to life imprisonment for the brutal killing of Stoke-on-Trent midwife Samantha Eastwood.
The 32-year-old was sentenced to a minimum of 17 years in prison and told he would remain under supervision for the rest of his life if released.
Stirling, 32, of Bucknall, Stoke-on-Trent, pleaded guilty to murdering his ex-lover in October.
Stafford Crown court heard how on July 27, he entered 28- year-old Samantha’s Baddeley Green home about 3pm and did not leave until around 5pm.
After finding her in her bedroom a row started, and Stirling pushed her causing Samantha to fall, knocking her head on a bedside table.
The defendant then placed one hand over her mouth and nose and the other on her neck and continued to smother and strangle her.
“He lost all his self-control and in a fog of anger killed her” the court was told.
The court heard how he had just intended to scare her and had no intention of killing until it had already happened.
In the hours after the killing, Stirling started to concoct a story to cover his tracks.
Only minutes after the murder the court were told how he had messaged his wife as normal, and after putting Samantha’s body into the back of his van he then returned to his parents home and had dinner with his wife and daughter, while Samantha lay dead in the back of the van.
The court heard reports that around 3pm a “neighbour heard a woman screaming. It lasted for about 20 seconds and sounded as if she was being attacked and was fighting back”.
Prosecutor Jonas Hankin, said: “CCTV shows his van arriving at the burial site.
“During that moment he had dug a shallow grave, removed Samantha’s body from the van and deposited it in the ground, he then covered her in soil.”
Describing Stirling’s actions after the murder Hankin said: “He went to the house opposite
Samantha’s to see if they had reviewed their CCTV footage claiming he was anxious to know what evidence they had.
“He then went to Samantha’s house and told her friends he had been out since 5am looking for her.
“He (Stirling) said I generally have love for that girl and I would not harm a hair on her head.”
Text messages were also sent from Samantha’s phone to her sister Gemma in the days after her disappearance.
Mitigating, Charles Miskin, said: “Nothing whatever Mr Stirling could say or that I could say could put the clock back.
“Mr Stirling killed Samantha Eastwood completely out of character, he has to face the torment of this until his own death, it’s like the stain that will spread through his relationships.”
Addressing the court Miskin said how, “Miss Eastwood was a feisty woman and knew how to push Stirling’s buttons.
“Eventually he pushed her and she fell over onto the floor and knocked her head.
“He was threatening but she wasn’t scared of him and was laughing.
“He put his left hand on her throat, he was just trying to scare her. She may have shouted at him to get off but he lost all his self-control.
“He picked her up, but she was gone.”
The court also heard how Stirling had wrapped Samantha’s body up in a cotton checked sheet and wrapped green and yellow electrical tape around her legs and how pieces of parcel tape where found stuck to her face covering her nose and mouth.
Sentencing Stirling Mrs Justice Carr, said: “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.
“You started sending text messages from Samantha’s phone to Gemma her sister with breathtaking cruelty. Imagine the appalling stress and confusion caused to Samantha’s family and friends.
“You concocted a story to explain her absence and you developed an extraordinary web of deception.”
Addressing the court Samantha’s sister Gemma Eastwood, looked straight at defendant Stirling and said: “The murderer’s family, they can go see him and speak to him I will never get the chance to see my sister or speak to her.
“The murderer had the audacity to turn up at my sister’s house and the accused treated my sister like a piece of meat, and because of this I was never able to see her again.”