Glasgow & West Scotland

Margaret Fleming accused 'in cover-up', prosecutor claims

Margaret Fleming
Image caption Margaret Fleming was last seen when she was 19

A couple accused of murdering Margaret Fleming were involved in a "cover-up", a prosecutor has said.

Iain McSporran QC made the claim as he urged jury members to convict Edward Cairney, 77, and Avril Jones, 59.

The advocate depute added "greed, arrogance and lies" had led to a murder charge.

Mr Cairney and Ms Jones deny killing Ms Fleming at their house in Inverkip, Inverclyde, between 18 December 1999 and 5 January 2000.

Image copyright Spindrift
Image caption Edward Cairney was one of Ms Fleming's carers

The couple had been Ms Fleming's carers since her father died in October 1995. She has allegedly not been seen for more than 19 years.

On Tuesday, Mr Cairney told the court he was "incapable of harming a kid or a lady" as he denied the murder charge.

The trial also heard claims of where Ms Fleming may be. Mr Cairney said she had gone with travellers, but would return when she needed money.

However, Mr McSporran questioned why Ms Fleming had not been in touch in light of the trial to clarify matters.

He also said: "Margaret and her body hasn't been found and probably wouldn't be found.

"No one in the authorities noticed Margaret's absence. She disappeared and no one noticed or cared."

'Fabricated' letters

The prosecutor also mentioned error-strewn letters apparently sent to the couple by Ms Fleming from London.

Jurors have heard how she had foundation-level literacy.

Mr McSporran said: "The Crown say they were involved in a cover-up and then writing letters.

"If you were going to fabricate a letter would you put it out beautifully or would you do it how someone with these difficulties would do it?

"You would put in spelling errors, no punctuation and you would want people to think this was the person she was like - backwards and slow."

Image caption A major search of the house in Inverkip was carried out by police

Mr Cairney's co-accused Ms Jones also denies defrauding Ms Fleming of £182,000 in benefits between 18 December 1999 and 26 October 2017.

Last week, prosecutors withdrew a number of charges against the couple, including that Mr Cairney defrauded Ms Fleming of the benefits.

Charges dropped against both accused included abducting and assaulting Ms Fleming by locking her in a room, cutting her hair and binding her arms and wrists with tape on various occasions between 1 November 1997 and 5 January 2000.

A charge that the couple attempted to defeat the ends of justice by disposing of Ms Fleming's personal effects and pretending she was alive was also dropped.

'Getting away with it'

A major police investigation was sparked on 28 October 2016 after a benefits claim submitted by Ms Jones on Ms Fleming's behalf raised concerns about her wellbeing.

Mr McSporran said: "If Avril Jones wasn't a liar, hadn't exaggerated what Margaret was suffering from and if the government didn't ask to apply this new benefit, no one would have discovered.

"Sheer greed and arrogance and getting away with it for years."

He added: "Criminals who are masterminds don't get caught, but those who make mistakes do.

"They covered up the truth and they caused it - Edward Cairney murdered Margaret Fleming and did try to defeat the ends of justice and was assisted by his partner and partner in crime, fraudster Avril Jones."

The trial continues.

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