Glasgow & West Scotland

Margaret Fleming: Homes approved for site where murder victim lived

Margaret Fleming residence Image copyright PA
Image caption The property and garden were forensically searched during the year-long murder investigation

Councillors have approved plans to build two new homes on the site of the cottage where murder victim Margaret Fleming lived before she vanished.

Edward Cairney, 77, and Avril Jones, 59, killed the vulnerable teenager between December 1999 and January 2000.

Margaret, who was 19 when she disappeared, stayed with the couple at Seacroft in Inverkip.

The dilapidated house on the Clyde coast was sold in 2017 for £120,000 and later demolished.

Two businessmen, from Coventry, who bought the property and land originally applied to build four houses.

Now a revised blueprint for two "architect-designed" houses on the 2,340 square metre site has now been approved by Inverclyde Council.

Image copyright Crown Office
Image caption Margaret Fleming had moderate learning difficulties

A planning statement noted the designs and materials were inspired by the sea, woodlands and the "very beautiful" semi-rural location.

But it added: "It is essential here to emphasise the very sad recent history of this site.

"It has been at the forefront of a murder inquiry and trial and as such has left this beautiful area of land with a melancholy that really needs to be lifted.

"It is in the interests of the area, and of course the nearby neighbours, to bring new life to this land and erase, where possible, the memory of this dreadful event.

"An exciting new modern development will help achieve this."

Image caption Cairney and Jones were both jailed for a minimum of 14 years

Detectives believe Margaret was killed around the turn of the millennium, but her body has never been found.

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

Last week, BBC Scotland documentary Murder Trial: The Disappearance of Margaret Fleming included new interviews with those most closely involved in the case.

It also featured footage from the trial at the High Court in Glasgow, after which the couple were jailed for life and told they would serve a minimum of 14 years.

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Media captionSgt Chris McKay returns to the house where he first met Edward Cairney and Avril Jones.

Inverclyde Council has confirmed an independent significant case review will be held to examine the roles of all the agencies involved in Margaret's welfare.

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

Three weeks later, on 5 January, 2000, Avril told her mother Florence that 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 about two years.

When police were finally alerted in October 2016 it was as a result of an application for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) - which had been filled out by Jones.

In it she wrote Margaret "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 Margaret had not been to the doctor, despite picking a hole in her head.

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

When the couple were eventually arrested a year later they maintained Margaret was still alive and often returned to visit them.

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