The body of midwife Samantha Eastwood was found in a shallow grave wrapped in a duvet cover with tape around her eyes and face, a court has heard.
Michael Stirling, 32, appeared at Stafford Crown Court charged with murdering the Royal Stoke Hospital worker.
Ms Eastwood’s body was discovered in a rural area near Caverswall, Staffordshire, on Saturday – eight days after the 28-year-old went missing.
Appearing from HMP Dovecote via video link, wearing a high-vis vest and a grey T-shirt, he spoke only to confirm his name, age and nationality and that he understood the proceedings.
Stirling is the brother-in-law of Ms Eastwood’s ex-fiance, John Peake, and is accused of murdering the midwife between 26 July and 5 August at Baddeley Green, Stoke.
Prosecutor Jonas Hankin told the court the ongoing investigation into the midwife’s death was “complex”.
The court heard Ms Eastwood had been found in a shallow grave, with masking tape around her face and eyes, and had been wrapped inside a single duvet cover.
A preliminary post-mortem examination did not reveal any gunshot, stab or penetrating wounds, and further analysis of neck bones was due to be carried out, Judge Michael Challinor QC was also told.
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 Stirling was not required to enter a plea.
His trial date was provisionally set for 4 February next year, but the judge told him that the complexities of the case meant that date was unlikely to remain fixed.
Two other men, aged 28 and 60, who were arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender, remain on conditional police bail while inquiries continue.
Ms Eastwood’s younger sister, Gemma, visited her sibling’s home on Monday to take away some of the flowers and tributes left by NHS colleagues, neighbours and members of the public.
A statement released by Staffordshire Police on the family’s behalf said: “We would like to say thank you to all the people who followed Samantha’s story and tried their best to help.”
From – SkyNews