The brother-in-law of Samantha Eastwood's ex-fiance has appeared in court today accused of her murder.
Michael Stirling, 32, was charged with murder last night - 24 hours after her body was found dumped in a disused salt quarry near Stoke-on-Trent.
The much-loved midwife was last seen smiling as she left the city's hospital after a night shift on Friday, July 27, and not seen again.
Stirling, whose wife Katie is the sister of Samantha’s ex-fiance Jon Peake, had already been held on suspicion of kidnap last week and was re-arrested on suspicion of murder last night as police continue to search his home in Stoke.
Today he appeared for three-minutes at North Staffordshire Magistrates' Court where he confirmed his name, address and date of birth but did not enter a plea.
He was remanded in custody and will appear at Stafford Crown Court on Wednesday.
other men, aged 28 and 60, were held on suspicion of assisting an
offender and bailed last night. The 60-year-old is believed to be the
murder suspect's father Stephen Stirling.
it was claimed that in the weeks before she vanished Miss Eastwood had
told a colleague she had been threatened and asked the unnamed hospital
worker to call the police if she failed to turn up for work.
Samantha was allegedly murdered Sterling, who is the brother-in law of her ex-fiancé John Peake (together left) and married to Mr Peake's sister Katie Stirling (together right)
Stirling, 32, (top sketched in the dock today, and bottem on his wedding day) was initially arrested on suspicion of kidnap before being re-arrested on suspicion of murder yesterday
The midwife's body was found dumped at this disused salt quarry in Caverswall near Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday - eight days after she vanished
His Facebook profile has been targeted with abusive comments from internet trolls.
Eastwood and Mr Peake had been a couple for seven years and were due to
marry in June, but the midwife ended their engagement at the start of
Mr Peake moved out of the home she bought in 2016 at Stockton Brook on the edge of Stoke-on-Trent and now lives on his own.
Yesterday police were seen entering a house in the Northwood area of the city owned by Mr Peake’s sister Katie Stirling, 32, and her husband Michael. The semi-detached property became a focus of the police hunt for Miss Eastwood last week.
An officer present yesterday confirmed the address was now being treated as a crime scene.
A statement from Staffordshire Police said: 'Detectives investigating the death of 28-year-old Samantha Eastwood have charged a man with her murder.
'Michael Stirling, aged 32, from Cromer Road, Stoke-on-Trent will appear before North Staffordshire Magistrates Court tomorrow morning.
'The body of Samantha was discovered during a police search of rural ground near to Caverswall on Saturday August 4. She had been reported missing on Friday July 27.
'Two other men aged 60 and 28, who were arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender, have been released on conditional bail while inquiries are ongoing'.
Murder suspect with his wife Katie on their wedding day and their home is still being searched by police
house is less than four miles from the Bucknall home of Mr Stirling’s
parents, Stephen, 60, who is believed to work in a garage, and
57-year-old wife Carol.
Officers searched the home yesterday and a small white van was seen being taken away by police on Saturday.
Last night it was claimed that Miss Eastwood had told a colleague at Royal Stoke University Hospital she had been threatened in the period leading up to her disappearance.
A source said: ‘[After this] Samantha asked one of her colleagues to report it if she didn’t turn up for work.
‘And that is what happened on the Friday night, that is why the police were called so quickly. She must have feared something like this would happen – that’s why she set up this raising the alarm thing with her colleague.’
A spokesman for the
hospital declined to comment on the claim last night. Officers searching
for Miss Eastwood found a body at Tick Hill Quarry, around eight miles
from her home near Caverswall, Staffordshire.
Police said the body was still to be formerly identified, but added that officers believed it to be that of Miss Eastwood.
The scene is just seven miles - an 18 minute drive - from the midwife's home In Baddeley Green, Staffordshire, where she is believed to have returned to by car after last being seen on CCTV in her scrubs leaving a night shift at Royal Stoke University Hospital at 7.45am on Friday last week.
Michael Stirling (left) has been charged while Stephen Stirling (right) has been bailed
The former fiancé of midwife Samantha Eastwood John Peake (pictured together), who had begged for help in finding her
On Sunday, police were seen searching the home that Mr Peake's sister Katie shares with her husband Michael Stirling, both aged 32 (pictured)
Officers using sticks to probe the area around Tickhill Lane in Caverswall, Stoke-on-Trent, on Saturday hours before they found her body in a nearby salt mine
Police wanted to find Samantha's distinctive missing purse - the only belonging that was missing from her home before she was murdered
The development came 24 hours after Miss
Eastwood’s sister Gemma, 26, made a tearful public appeal for
information to help find her ‘best friend’.
In a brief statement issued through police yesterday the Eastwood family said: ‘We would like to say thank you to all the people who followed Samantha’s story and tried their best to help.’
Mr Peake’s Facebook page has also been inundated with almost 500 comments – with some trolls pointing the finger at the innocent steam railway manager.
One wrote: ‘Of course you murdered her, couple of her mates and a pair of pliers would get the truth out of you.’
A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said: ‘We are not naming the three men arrested yesterday but John Peake is not one of them.’
Miss Eastwood was last seen in her Volvo XC60 on CCTV, moments after leaving hospital at the end of a night shift last Friday morning. Colleagues raised the alarm when she failed to return to work that evening.
Ms Eastwood, pictured left, leaving Royal Stoke University Hospital in her scrubs on the day she went missing
Further footage showed her driving her Volvo XC60 away from the hospital car park
Police searching the home of Katie and Michael Stirling in Staffordshire earlier on Sunday as they confirm it is now being treated as a crime scene
Samantha's disappearance was being treated as a missing person's inquiry until she was found murdered on Saturday