Glasgow & West Scotland

Margaret Fleming: Carer appeals teenager murder conviction

Eddie Cairney
Image caption Eddie Cairney denied murdering Margaret and claims she is still alive

A carer who murdered a vulnerable teenager whose body has never been found intends to appeal against his conviction and sentence.

Edward Cairney, 77, and Avril Jones, 59, killed Margaret Fleming, 19, between December 1999 and January 2000.

Jones then continued to claim £182,000 in benefits until it finally emerged Margaret was missing in October 2016.

Cairney, who was last week sentenced to a minimum of 14 years in prison, has lodged intimation of intent to appeal.

The next stage, which involves lodging a note of appeal, must be completed by 16 September.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service confirmed Jones has not yet indicated if she will appeal but has until 31 July to do so.

Sentencing the couple, Lord Matthews told them: "Only you two know the truth. Only you know where her remains are."

The judge said it was obvious the motive for the murder and the cover-up was financial.

He added: "Margaret Fleming was a vulnerable young woman with evident difficulties. She was in your care and you breached the trust placed in you.

"The manner in which you described her when you spoke about her was cruel and the fantastic web of deceit you spun was callous and calculating."

Image caption Margaret Fleming was last seen when she was 19

Despite a painstaking search of their dilapidated property in Inverkip on the Clyde coast, and its garden, no trace of Margaret has ever been found.

Testimony from Avril's brother, Richard Jones, was used to pinpoint the last independent sighting of the teenager on 17 December, 1999.

Three weeks later, on 5 January, 2000, Avril told her mother, Florence Jones, Margaret had run off with a traveller.

The couple, who had no previous convictions, then embarked on a cover up which involved bogus letters and erasing all trace of Margaret from the cottage where she had lived for around two years.

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Media captionEdward Cairney and Avril Jones spoke to the BBC in 2017 about Margaret Fleming's disappearance

The trial heard that a benefits investigator attempted to visit Ms Fleming in June 2012 but was told by Jones that she would not see her.

The investigator said a duty social worker should have visited the "totally chaotic" property to follow up on the young woman's welfare, but no-one did.

When police were finally alerted four years later it was as a result of an application for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) - which had been filled out by Jones.

In it she wrote that Ms Fleming "needs constant care", had self-harmed and was "caught eating out of a dog bowl".

A social worker phoned Jones to offer help and was told Ms Fleming had not been to the doctor, despite picking a hole in her head.

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Media captionLord Matthews said the pair spun a "web of deceit" that was callous and calculating

Police Scotland subsequently launched a missing persons' investigation in October 2016.

When justice eventually caught up with the couple a year later they maintained Margaret was still alive and often returned to visit them.

Det Supt Paul Livingstone has now urged them to reveal what they did with the teenager's body.

He said: "Your lies and deceit have caught up with you so, for once, just think about Margaret. That wee girl deserves a proper funeral."

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