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Midwife’s killer left false clues and even gave her sister a hug

Secret affair: Samantha Eastwood (above) was killed by Stirling, who is quizzed by police (below) after her body was found PICTURES: PA

A COLD and calculating murderer who killed his midwife lover and then tried to pin the blame on his brother-in-law has been jailed for life.

Michael Stirling murdered Samantha Eastwood, 28, during an ‘intense rage’ about their secret affair.

The landscape gardener hid her body in his van and parked outside his parents’ house while he enjoyed a ‘cheerful’ evening there with his wife Katie.

Unknown to them, he had left a ‘false trail’ of evidence that pointed to Katie’s brother John Peak, 34, Ms Eastwood’s former fiancé, as the murderer.

After suffocating the NHS worker, Stirling, 32, laid out the wedding dress she had planned to wear and her engagement ring on her bed.

The following evening he buried Ms Eastwood’s body in a shallow grave in a disused quarry close to where Mr Peak worked, while pretending to his wife he was out searching for her.

‘Callous and composed’ Stirling also hugged Ms Eastwood’s sister Gemma, 26, as he pretended to offer her family support. He even sent her text messages, posing as Ms Eastwood and claiming she was suffering a breakdown and wanted to be alone. The full details of his crimes and double life were revealed as Stirling was sentenced to a minimum of 16 years at Stafford crown court yesterday.

Ms Eastwood’s family, including Gemma and her mother Carole, wept as the sentence was handed down by Mrs Justice Susan Carr.

‘False trail’: Ms Eastwood poses in her unused wedding dress, which she tried to sell on Facebook

She said Ms Eastwood ‘suffered what must have been a terrifying assault’ at the hands of Stirling who later took his ‘actions to a new level with breathtaking cruelty’.

He continued weaving his ‘extraordinary web of deception’ in the days after Ms Eastwood was reported missing from her home near Stoke. She had failed to turn up for work at the Royal Stoke University Hospital on July 27. Her body was found dumped in a ditch wrapped in a duvet cover with masking tape covering her face and eyes near the village of Caverswall, Staffordshire, on August 4.

Gemma read an emotional victim impact statement to the court describing the chilling moment Stirling (pictured) hugged her. Fighting back tears, she said: ‘That night he hugged me after he killed my sister, that will haunt me.

‘When he killed my sister, he might as well have killed me and my mum as we are not sure how we can live on without Samantha.’

Side by side: Samatha Eastwood (left) with former fiancé John Peak, his sister Katie, and her husband, the killer Stirling (right)

Stirling admitted murder at Northampton crown court in October. Prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC said: ‘In the hours after her death he was composed and he was callous.’ Charles Miskin QC, defending, said he had lost all his self-control in a ‘fog of anger’.