Carers ‘murdered 19-year-old woman with learning difficulties and claimed her benefits for 20 years’

Two carers murdered a disabled woman a claimed £182,000 of her benefits over the next 20 years, a court heard.

Margaret Fleming was reported missing on October 2016 from her home but has not been seen since December 1999, when she was just 19-years-old.

Edward Cairney, 76, and Avril Jones, 58, are accused of murder, abduction, and fraudulently claiming nearly £200,000 in benefits while living in her home.

Margaret Fleming (pictured) has not been seen since 1999, although benefits have still been claimed in her name

Margaret Fleming (pictured) has not been seen since 1999, although benefits have still been claimed in her name

The disappearance of the vulnerable woman sparked an international police search after she went missing from her seaside home almost one year ago

The disappearance of the vulnerable woman sparked an international police search after she went missing from her seaside home almost one year ago

Margaret Fleming (pictured) has not been seen since 1999, although benefits have still been claimed in her name

The pair are alleged to have claimed benefits by pretending she was still living at her home in Renfrewshire, Scotland.

The pair are accused of embarking on a two and a half year spree of abuse, assaulting Ms Fleming between November 1, 1997 to January 5, 2000.

In that assault, they are alleged to have tied her to a chair and cut her hair on numerous occasions. They are also accused of destroying items belonging to Ms Fleming between December 1999 and October 2017.   

Cairney alone is charged with assaulting another woman, Margaret Cruickshanks, on November 26, 1987, at Seacroft, by pushing her against furniture, putting his hand around her throat and repeatedly spitting in her face.  

The former home of missing woman Margaret Fleming in Inverclyde. Pictured in August 2017

The former home of missing woman Margaret Fleming in Inverclyde. Pictured in August 2017

The former home of missing woman Margaret Fleming in Inverclyde. Pictured in August 2017

They are also accused of trying to board a train to London at Glasgow Central Station on October 25, 2017 while carrying £3,500 and the keys to a safe deposit box at a bank in London which contained £27,000.

It is alleged they planned to travel and evade police and prosecutors.

They deny all the charges. 

Ms Fleming was photographed with the parents of Avril Jones, the second accused.

The jury was shown photographs of the squalid conditions Jones and Cairney lived. Many of the rooms were uninhabitable and were stacked with boxes. Police also found a bonfire in the back garden.

Avril Jones is accused of murdering Margaret Fleming

Avril Jones is accused of murdering Margaret Fleming

Avril Jones (left) and Eddie Cairney (right) are accused of murdering Margaret Fleming, who has not been seen since 1999. Pictured: The accused leaving their home they share in Inverclyde

William Ward, senior examiner with the Scottish Police Authority, gave evidence and said he had ‘never seen anything like it’.

He told the court: ‘There was a large bay window in a state of considerable disrepair.

‘The window appeared to be missing.’

When asked by the advocate depute, Iain McSporran QC, whether someone would be able to ‘just walk into that,’ Mr Ward replied: ‘You would have to climb into it.’

He added: ‘It was completely full of stuff. I have never seen anything like it.’ 

Judge Lord Hugh Matthews presides over the trial, which is expected to last six to eight weeks.

The trial continues.

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