‘Carers’ facing sentence over Margaret Fleming murder

A couple convicted of murdering a vulnerable woman for whom they claimed to be carers will return to court for sentencing.

Margaret Fleming, who had learning difficulties, vanished “from the face of the Earth” around December 1999. Her body has never been found.

Edward Cairney, 77, and Avril Jones, 59, were found guilty by majority of murder following a seven-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow last month.

Avril Jones and Edward Cairney
Avril Jones and Edward Cairney (Police Scotland/PA)

Jones was also convicted unanimously of fraudulently claiming £182,000 in benefits by pretending Ms Fleming, who would now have been 38, was alive.

The couple are due to return to the same court for sentencing, and have been warned they face mandatory life imprisonment for murder.

A minimum period will be set, to be served before either can apply for parole.

Jurors found the couple murdered Ms Fleming by unknown means between December 18 1999 and January 5 2000 at their home in Inverkip, Inverclyde, or elsewhere in Scotland, and then tried to cover up the crime for almost 18 years.

Police launched an investigation after it became apparent in October 2016 that Ms Fleming was missing, which included searching the home and grounds.

Margaret Fleming missing
Police used a digger to search the grounds of the home (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Routine social services inquiries were said to have sparked concerns over her whereabouts.

It was claimed the last independent sighting of her was at a family event on December 17 1999.

Cairney and Jones were arrested in October 2017.

During their trial, which began in April, prosecutors described Ms Fleming as a “friendless and lonely” young woman with significant difficulties.

She moved to the Seacroft home of the accused when she was a teenager following her father’s death after those closest to her “didn’t want her”.

By October 1999, the household – said to have financial troubles – was collecting her benefits and the Crown said money was the motive for her murder.

Holding them jointly responsibility for the death, the Crown claimed Cairney and Jones “literally got away with murder for 16 years”.

The details of how, where and when she died may never be fully known since, as the defence highlighted, there is no body and no crime scene.

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