Demolition order served on missing woman Margaret Fleming's house

Image caption,
The back garden of the house Margaret Fleming shared with her carers was dug up during searches

A demolition order has been served on the home of a missing woman who has last seen in public 17 years ago.

Margaret Fleming was reported missing from her home in Inverkip in Inverclyde in October 2016, but no-one but her carers had seen her since 1999.

Police had searched the house and dug up the garden, amid fears something "sinister" could have happened to her.

Inverclyde Council said the property was in a "serious state of disrepair" and was "unfit for human habitation".

A demolition order was served on Monday, giving the owner six weeks to arrange for the property to be repaired or to arrange for its demolition.

Margaret, who will now be 36, was reported missing by her two carers on 28 October. However, other than the carers, the last independent sighting of her was at a family gathering on 17 December 1999, when she was aged 19.

Police found no trace of her making any contact with the outside world in the years since.

Image caption,
Margaret Fleming was reported missing in October 2016

Officers were initially asked by social work officers to call at the remote five-bedroom house, named Seacroft, which lies next to the coast on the road between Inverkip and Wemyss Bay.

Det Ch Insp Paul Livingstone told BBC Scotland that Margaret's bank account had not been accessed for many years, but confirmed she was in receipt of benefits that the carers managed for her.

He said there had been "extensive inquiries" into the background of the case, with officers excavating half an acre of land around the house and speaking with about 1,200 individuals and organisations.

Police completed their searches of the house in May, but the investigation to find Margaret continues.

A spokesman for Inverclyde Council said: "Our priority is to prevent anyone living in the property as it is in a serious state of disrepair, below the tolerable standard and therefore unfit for human habitation. The owner has six weeks to organise the demolition or arrange with the council to have the property repaired."

Image source, PA
Image caption,
It is understood Margaret Fleming had lived in the Inverkip house since 1999

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