Glasgow & West Scotland

Police dog 'would not pick up scent' of missing woman

Margaret Fleming
Image caption Margaret Fleming was reported missing in October 2016

Murder accused Edward Cairney claimed a police sniffer dog would not find missing Margaret Fleming's scent, a court was told.

PC Kimberley Hill, a dog handler, was giving evidence at the trial of Mr Cairney, 77, and Avril Jones, 58.

Both deny murdering Margaret, when she was 19, at the home they shared in Inverkip or elsewhere in Scotland.

The prosecution claim the teenager was killed between 18 December, 1999 and 5 January, 2000.

PC Hill told prosecutor Iain McSporran QC that she arrived at Seacroft at 20:30 on October 28, 2016.

'Concerned'

The witness told the High Court in Glasgow she spoke to Mr Cairney and Ms Jones to try to get information about Margaret.

PC Hill added: "We had a vulnerable person with learning difficulties and we were concerned for her."

The officer had been informed Margaret made off through the back of the house before she briefed Mr Cairney and Ms Jones how a dog search works.

PC Hill said: "Mr Cairney said the dog won't find any scent. He said she might have gone round the back and swung out onto the main road."

Mr McSporran said: "His first instinct was to say the dog wouldn't find any scent?"

The witness replied: "Yes."

PC Hill said that she was told Margaret had been wearing a tartan fleece, jeans and builders' boots that night.

She told the court Mr Cairney described Margaret as around 5ft 4in, of heavy build with dark shoulder length hair.

Travellers

Asked if the accused said where she might have gone, the witness replied: "Mr Cairney said Wemyss Bay. I asked if she would have gone on foot. He thought about it and said: 'No, she sometimes gets picked up by travellers.'

"Miss Jones said it had been drummed into Margaret by her grandmother from a young age if the police got her they would take her away. There was a comment that if I found her she might be violent because I am a uniformed officer."

The court heard that PC Hill asked if Margaret had a mobile phone and was told she did but neither Mr Cairney nor Ms Jones knew the number.

Under cross examination by defence QC Thomas Ross, representing Mr Cairney, PC Hill admitted that there was only a limited time period for dogs to pick up scent.

Lost scent

Mr Ross said: "If Margaret had walked along a hard surface the scent would be gone by the time you got there."

PC Hill replied: "Yes."

The court was told that the maximum time for scent to linger on grassy areas was about two hours.

The defence QC said: "There are some indications this happened at 5.40pm and you did not get there until 8.30pm, so Mr Cairney might have been correct when he said the dogs' chances of getting her was low."

The officer replied: "That's correct."

Mr Cairney and Ms Jones also deny claiming £182,000 in benefits fraud by pretending Margaret was alive.

The trial, before Lord Matthews, continues.

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