A man who murdered his brother-in-law’s former fiancée after an "intense affair" sent vile text messages from his victim’s phone in a failed bid to cover up his crime.
Michael Stirling, 32, had smothered NHS midwife Samantha Eastwood, 28, at her home in Baddeley Green, Staffs, and buried her body in a shallow grave.
He kept her phone and sent a series of messages to Miss Eastwood’s sister, Gemma, to make it look like she was still alive and had suffered a breakdown in an act of "breath-taking cruelty".
In one text during the 16-message exchange, Stirling – claiming to be Miss Eastwood – suggests that she has been taken away by a "mad" man she had met online, StokeonTrentLive reports.
The landscape gardener claimed she was in a blue BMW with the man, and swiftly followed-up with a text reading "Lee Davis".
It was all a brazen pack of lies which initially sent the police on a wild goose chase.
Miss Eastwood’s loved-ones had become concerned after she failed to show up for a night shift at the Royal Stoke University Hospital on July 27.
She was reported missing and a massive search was launched.
In the text exchange on July 28, Gemma’s messages become increasingly frantic as she pleads with Miss Eastwood to tell her where she is and even asks to meet in secret.
At 9.50am, Gemma wrote to her sister saying "Where are you. Ring me to let me know your safe".
At 10.13am she received the reply "Please leave me alone X".
Gemma responded "Where are you. Who are you with".
And seconds later she wrote: "We are all worried. The police are involved and going to do a press release. Just tell me where you are. I’ll come and meet you on my own. I won’t tell anyone."
At 10.40am she received another message from Miss Eastwood’s phone saying: "I love you all. I’ve had a massive breakdown about stuff. I’m so sorry xx I’l be OK. I’m in touch with the help line. I’m not going to do anything silly. I wont [sic] to be left alone xx".
Gemma replied: "Where are you. Let me come and see you. I won’t tell anyone."
She added: "Just let me come and see you. I won’t tell anyone. Let me help you."
At 10.50am she received this reply: "No Gem. I’m sick of pretending I’m OK xx I’m going to the dr’s. I just need time to blow off some steam."
Gemma then asked her to ring police and forwarded a contact number.
The reply was: "I just want time for me. I’m sick of Facebook. I just want me time".
This was followed by: "I’m sorry I’ve caused so much stress and upset. I just done [sic] feel myself atm, Gemma you aren’t listening. I need time".
Gemma asked her one last time to make contact.
The reply was: "I will soon xx love you. All I mean it I’ll be OK".
And then: "Speak to you later. I promise xx".
At 12.45pm Gemma received a further message from Miss Eastwood’s phone saying: “Gem I’m in a car blue BMW. He’s taking me to the motorway. I’m sorry. I met a guy on the internet. He’s mad. I messaged you".
Another message soon followed saying simply: “Lee Davis".
Cell site evidence and CCTV showed Stirling was in possession of Miss Eastwood’s phone at the time the messages were sent
Prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC said: "A report from a forensic linguist concluded that Samantha did not write the messages and the author was likely to be Stirling.
"This was another attempt by Stirling to deceive Samantha’s family"
As a result of Stirling’s evil cover-up plot, Staffordshire Police’s efforts initially focused on the Whitby area of North Yorkshire although police soon realised this was a red herring.
But despite Stirling stubbornly refusing to answer questions he was arrested on suspicion of kidnap within 48 hours of her disappearing before being released.
The turning point of the investigation came when he returned to an area close to the burial site on his bicycle – tipping detectives off about where to look for her.
He was then re-arrested following the discovery of Miss Eastwood’s body in Caverswall on August 4 – eight days after he killed her with his bare hands at her home in Baddeley Green.
Stirling, of Northwood, went on to plead guilty to murder last month and was today sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole for at least 16 years.
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