A 27-year-old man has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering mother-of-four Donna Eastwood.

Joshua Caird, of Almond Road, Stone, was charged with the murder of Miss Eastwood, 26 and also from Almond Road, on October 20 last year.

Miss Eastwood's body was discovered in a burnt out car in Rowhill Road, Wilmington on October 18.

Today Caird was sentenced to life with a minimum of 25 years in prison at Maidstone Crown Court (April 10).

The night of the murder

Caird and Miss Eastwood, who were neighbours, were seen talking at a surprise birthday party for Caird’s mother on Friday October 17. 

Just after 1am Miss Eastwood left the party, which had been held next door at Caird’s sister's house.

This was the last time anyone would see her alive. 

About an hour later Caird, who was drunk and had fallen asleep at the party, walked home with his parents, a few doors away. 

He was helped into his bedroom by his father, before slumping on the bed. 

Just a few hours later, Caird went to Miss Eastwood's house and stabbed her. 

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Donna Eastwood

He wrapped her in a tarpaulin he had retrieved from his parents’ barbeque and put her into the boot of his sister’s Nissan Qashqai, which he had stolen. 

Caird then drove to his brother’s house in Edgefield Close, Dartford. 

He asked his brother for help to dispose of Miss Eastwood and said: "She’s in the car. I think I’ve killed her". 

Caird’s brother ran to the car and, seeing the body-shaped green tarpaulin in the boot, tried to pull Miss Eastwood out. 

Caird punched his brother several times, knocking him to the ground, before driving away.

At around 5.30am on Saturday October 18, police received three separate calls to report Caird’s actions, within the space of a few minutes. 

At around 7am, Kent Fire and Rescue Service was called to a remote location in Rowhill Road, Wilmington, where a car had been found alight. 

They told the police they believed there was a body in the boot.

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The burnt out car removed from the scene

The man-hunt

Following the discovery of Miss Eastwood's body, a 30-hour man hunt took place to find Caird, who had gone into hiding. 

He was found the next day in the attic of his empty house after he had broken back in. 

Officers interviewed Caird for two-and-a-half hours. He sat in silence throughout. 

Detectives worked to piece together evidence gathered at the scene, Caird’s house and at the victim’s home. 

Investigations found Miss Eastwood had been stabbed in the back using a kitchen knife, wrapped in a tarpaulin and dumped in the boot of a car, which was driven to a remote location and set on fire. 

She was found lying face down with the murder weapon under her body. 

Caird was charged with murder. 

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The knife found in the burnt out car

'I miss her so much it hurts'

After the sentencing Miss Eastwood's sister, Lisa Sheppard, issued a statement on behalf of the family.

She said: "I am glad that this nightmare is now over for my family and that justice has been served. We can now work on trying to rebuild our lives. 

"Donna was an amazing person who would light up a room whenever she walked into it. I miss her so much it hurts.

"I would like to thank our family and friends for supporting us through this terrible time.

"Life no doubt will still be hard but to know that Donna’s killer is locked up is of some comfort.

"I would like to thank the police for their hard work and the community for their support."

'Senseless and cold-blooded'

Detective Inspector Ivan Beasley, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "This was a senseless and cold-blooded attack on an innocent mother in the middle of the night. 

"Caird had spent the evening socialising at a party with his victim, before stabbing her and leaving her to die in a burning car. 

"Caird knew what he had done. He committed a vicious attack on a mother of four before cowardly hiding from the police.  

"Miss Eastwood’s family has been through an incredibly emotional ordeal because of Caird’s actions.

"He killed an innocent woman in a horrific, drunken attack and continued to deny it for almost six months. 

"I'd also like to take this opportunity to commend the witnesses.

"It took a great deal of courage to come forward and help us identify a suspect to give Miss Eastwood’s family some sort of justice."

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Joshua Caird's mug shot

'Overwhelming evidence'

Nigel Pilkington, Crown Prosecution Service, South East head of the complex casework unit, said: "The fact that Joshua Caird has today finally pleaded guilty to the murder of Donna Eastwood is a testament to the overwhelming evidence we had against him, including the fact that he had confessed to two people that he had killed Donna. 

"She was a mother with four young children and our thoughts go out to her family and friends. 

"Now that Caird has been brought to justice, we hope they can start to rebuild their lives."

Kevin McKinley

Miss Eastwood was the former partner of Kevin McKinley, who was killed with a shotgun in Overy Street, Dartford in February 2013. 

Michaela Sargeant, 25, was found guilty of the 32-year-old's manslaughter and was jailed for eight years. 

Lewis Wickenden, 26, who lived with Ms Sargeant in Overy Street, was found guilty of assisting an offender by removing a 12-bore shotgun from the scene and possessing a weapon with intent to cause fear of violence. 

He was jailed for five years.