Image copyright Samantha Eastwood
Image caption Samantha Eastwood’s family has thanked members of the public for their support

Midwife Samantha Eastwood was found in a shallow grave, wrapped in a duvet cover and with tape around her eyes and face, a court has heard.

The 28-year-old’s body was found in Caverswall, Staffordshire, on Saturday, eight days after she was reported missing.

Pathologists found no gunshot or knife wounds during initial tests on her remains, Stafford Crown Court heard.

Michael Stirling, 32, is accused of Ms Eastwood’s murder.

The defendant, of Gratton Road, Bucknall, appeared at court via videolink, and was remanded in custody until his next hearing on 5 October.

Mr Stirling is the brother-in-law of Ms Eastwood’s ex-fiance, John Peake, and is accused of killing her between 26 July and 5 August at Baddeley Green, Stoke-on-Trent.

Jonas Hankin QC, prosecuting, told the court the investigation into her death was “complex” and meant a provisional trial date set for February 2019 was unlikely to remain in place.

A preliminary post-mortem examination did not reveal any gunshot, stab or penetrating wounds, and further analysis of neck bones would be conducted, Judge Michael Challinor QC was also told.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Michael Stirling leaves North Staffordshire Justice Centre on Monday

CCTV footage, telephone evidence and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) data are also set to form part of the evidence at trial.

Defence barrister Samina Rasid made no application for bail and Mr Stirling was not required to enter any plea.

Two men, aged 60 and 28, arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender have been released on conditional bail.

Ms Eastwood, of Stockton Brook in Stoke-on-Trent, was last seen in uniform leaving work at Royal Stoke University Hospital on the morning of 27 July.

Earlier this week, Staffordshire Police said a post-mortem examination had taken place but further tests were required.

Image caption Tributes to the midwife have been left outside Royal Stoke University Hospital

More than £10,000 has now been collected on a fundraising page set up to help Ms Eastwood’s family with funeral costs.

It surpassed its target 24 hours after being launched and continued to gather donations from the many people touched by her death.

An event has also been set up on Facebook encouraging people from the medical profession, or the wider public, to light a candle in her memory on Friday.

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