Glasgow & West Scotland

Murder accused 'not concerned' about missing Margaret Fleming

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

A police officer has told a trial that murder accused Edward Cairney and Avril Jones did not appear concerned about missing Margaret Fleming.

PC Stuart Rintoul said colleagues had gone to check on Margaret's welfare on 28 October 2016 and this had escalated into a missing person's inquiry.

He was giving evidence at the trial of Mr Cairney, 77, and Ms Jones, 59, at the High Court in Glasgow.

They deny murdering Ms Fleming between December 1999 and January 2000.

Margaret, who would now be 38 years old, has allegedly not been seen for more than 19 years.

Mr Cairney and Ms Jones, from Inverkip, became Margaret's carers after her father died.

PC Stuart Rintoul told how officers spoke to the pair in October 2016.

No visitors

Mr Cairney claimed that he and Margaret had just walked to Wemyss Bay and back when Margaret fled after seeing the police.

PC Rintoul described Mr Cairney as "angry" and said that on missing person inquiries "usually the person in the house is willing to help us".

He was asked by prosecutor Iain McSporran QC: "How concerned were Edward Cairney and Avril Jones for Margaret," and he replied: "Not very much. All I got told was she had no family or friends and no-one visited."

Mr McSporran then said: "Did their attitude strike you as normal," and PC Rintoul replied: "No. If someone as vulnerable as this female was missing, normally the people would appear upset. There didn't appear to be that."

The police officer said he told Mr Cairney and Ms Jones that a police helicopter and police dog would be called out in the search for Margaret.

He said: "Both were shocked and angry, almost as if they didn't want it to happen."

PC Rintoul said Ms Jones told him Margaret's benefits were paid to her.

Bank account

He said: "I asked Avril Jones about money and she said the money was paid into her bank account, and when she lifted it she gave Margaret her bit."

The witness added: "She said Margaret couldn't look after herself. Avril said she went everywhere with Eddie and the two of them wouldn't let her leave the house herself."

Defence QC Thomas Ross, representing Cairney, asked PC Rintoul if Mr Cairney initially told him that Margaret had run away a week before but came back an hour later. He replied: "Yes."

Mr Ross then said: "Did he not eventually express concern for Margaret?" The policeman replied: "It was about two-and-a-half to three hours later. I asked him if he was concerned and he said 'I am now'."

Defence QC Ian Duguid, representing Ms Jones, asked PC Rintoul: "Did Miss Jones say how much she gave Margaret Fleming," and he replied: "£700."

The trial also heard that murder accused Ms Jones blamed a social worker as police searched for Margaret.

Insp Paul Thomson said she told him: "This is all down to that stupid bloody social worker.''

He added: "She said it was because Margaret had failed to keep an appointment."

No photographs

The court has heard that social worker Veronica Bennett contacted police after concerns were raised about a benefits form completed by Ms Jones on behalf of Margaret.

Insp Thomson also said he did not think either accused was concerned about Margaret.

He added: "Mr Cairney said 'I hope she doesn't come back after all this fuss.'"

Another police witness, Sgt Chris McKay, told the murder trial that initially they wondered if Margaret actually existed.

Mr McSporran said: "Were there any suspicions by your officers?" and Sgt McKay replied: "Yes, they didn't believe Margaret Fleming had been there."

He told the jury this was because there were no personal belongings or photographs of Margaret.

Mr McSporran said: "Did you ask them if Margaret Fleming existed?" and the police officer replied: "Yes."

Sgt McKay added: "Miss Jones also said the social worker had ruined their lives. She said that a number of times."

Mr Cairney and Ms Jones are also accused of defrauding £182,000 in benefits and attempting to defeat the ends of justice by claiming Margaret was alive.

They deny all the charges against them.

The trial before judge Lord Matthews continues.

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