Jonas Hankin QC, instructed on behalf of West Midlands CPS, opened the case against Michael Stirling when the case was listed for sentence before the Honourable Mrs Justice Carr DBE.

Michael Stirling was convicted by his guilty plea of the murder of Samantha Eastwood on 27th July 2018.  Shortly before 8am that day Samantha had left Royal Stoke Hospital where she worked as a midwife.  She drove to her home at 2 Greenside Avenue, Stockton Brook, Stoke-on-Trent.  She did not return to work later at 7.30pm as expected. A search by family and friends commenced.  There followed days of police search and appeals by Samantha’s family to the public on national and regional media in a desperate attempt to find her. Samantha’s body was eventually found on 4th August 2018 buried in a shallow grave in countryside close to Tickhill, Dilhorne.  She was clothed, wearing pyjamas and wrapped in a sheet which was bound with tape. Parcel-type tape had been wrapped around her head and face. Michael Stirling had killed her and, under the pretence of joining the search to find her, had later taken and buried her in the place where she was found.  In the hours and days that followed, he lied over and over again in an attempt to cover up what he had done. 

Sentencing Mr Stirling, the Honourable Mrs Justice Carr DBE said,

“Samantha suffered what must have been a terrifying assault, resulting in a killing that was not immediate.  She would have been aware that she was being strangled and smothered to death. Beyond that, the most significant and obviously aggravating factors are to be found not only in your concealment of her body but in the sophisticated and mendacious cover-up that you maintained not just for hours but for days in the aftermath of Samantha’s death and in the glare not only of local scrutiny but national publicity. As for the concealment, you intended permanent concealment, even though it only proved to be temporary. But even that temporary concealment deprived the family from any full opportunity to pay their respects and say goodbye to Samantha.  Decomposition in Samantha’s body has also meant that it has not been possible to have a vigorous enquiry into the circumstances of death, such as any bruising and the period of survival. You concocted a story to explain Samantha’s absence, sent false text messages and lied in interview on 29th July 2018.  You weaved an extraordinary web of deception. The additional distress and trauma caused to Samantha’s family by these features has been and continues to be immense, not to mention the many hours and days spent by the police and volunteers looking for Samantha when you knew exactly where she was.  Throughout this period, you were repeatedly acting deliberately and without remorse; you were composed and callous. Having regard to all the aggravating features and all the mitigating features in your case before credit for guilty plea, I consider an appropriate minimum term on the count of murder after trial in your case would have been 20 years.  After credit for your guilty plea, the minimum term is 17 years and 52 days. Time spent on remand in custody, which is now 118 days, will be deducted from this minimum term, producing the final minimum term of 16 years and 299 days.”

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Jonas Hankin QC is a member of the Crime Group at No5 Barristers’ Chambers. To view his profile visit: