Michael Stirling pleads guilty to murdering midwife Samantha Eastwood after affair

A man has admitted murdering midwife Samantha Eastwood after a "longstanding" affair.

Michael Stirling, 32, was accused of killing the Royal Stoke Hospital worker at some point between 26 July and 5 August at Baddeley Green, a residential area of Stoke-on-Trent.

She had been missing for eight days when her body was discovered buried and wrapped in a duvet cover, with tape around her eyes and face, in a rural area near Caverswall, Staffordshire.

Stirling - the brother-in-law of Ms Eastwood's ex-fiance - pleaded guilty at Northampton Crown Court on Monday.

His barrister, Charles Miskin QC, said it was "not a pre-meditated act" and that the killing had occurred amid "a background of growing tension arising from a longstanding, but not particularly intense, affair".

On the afternoon of the murder, Mr Miskin said there had been "various things said" between the landscape gardener and his 28-year-old victim, which he said had "led to him becoming 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," he continued.

"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 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."

The court heard that two days before the murder, Stirling - who had a history of mental health problems - had researched methods of suicide.

Jonas Hankin QC, prosecuting, said: "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."

No cause of death for Ms Eastwood has yet been established, with Staffordshire Police confirming that further tests were required after a postmortem was carried out in August.

In a statement issued by the force following the discovery of the body, the family of Ms Eastwood - whose mother and sister were in court to hear the guilty plea - thanked supporters for their efforts in trying to find her.

"We would like to say thank you to all the people who followed Samantha's story and tried their best to help," they said.

Detective Inspector Dan Ison said officers hoped "to find out more detail" about the murder when Stirling is sentenced at Stafford Crown Court on 3 December.

He added: "We do understand there was an intimate relationship of some sort and we will comment further following sentencing."