Margaret Fleming murder: Killer couple ordered to pay back victim’s benefits


Edward Cairney, 80, and Avril Jones, 61, are serving life sentences after they were found guilty in June 2019 of murdering Margaret Fleming sometime between December 1999 and January 2000.

They were supposed to be caring for the 19-year-old who lived with them in Inverkip, Renfrewshire.

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Jones was also convicted of fraudulently claiming £182,000 in benefits by pretending Ms Fleming was alive.

The last known picture taken of Margaret Fleming

Confiscation orders were granted against both Cairney and Jones at the High Court in Edinburgh on Monday.

For Jones, the order states she benefited by £182,000 and the confiscation order had been made for £3,473.20, however, the Crown has the power to extend the order against her to seize money and assets she acquires in the future to pay back the full amount she made.

The order against Cairney shows he benefited by £24,347.98 and he will have to pay back the full amount.

Cairney refuses to reveal what happened to Margaret Fleming’s remains.

Laura Buchan, Prosecutor Fiscal for Specialist Casework, said: “Edward Cairney and Avril Jones were entrusted with the care of Margaret Fleming, a vulnerable young woman. Instead, they murdered her, covered up their crime from her and continued to claim her state benefits from her.

“They were convicted and sentenced for their despicable crimes, but the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) will not stop at prosecution and will use every tool available to ensure criminals pay for their actions.

“These confiscation orders mark the end of a long and complex investigation that involved painstaking work by police, prosecutors and forensic accountants to ensure all the criminal benefit held by Cairney and Jones was recovered.”

Cairney and Jones were convicted following a seven-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow and were each sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 14 years.

Jones was happy to pocket tragic Margaret Fleming’s benefits. Pic: BBC Scotland

Jurors found the couple murdered Ms Fleming by unknown means between December 18 1999 and January 5 2000 at their home in Inverkip, Inverclyde, or elsewhere in Scotland, and then tried to cover up the crime for almost 18 years.

Police launched an investigation after it became apparent in October 2016 that Ms Fleming was missing.

Routine social services inquiries were said to have sparked concerns about her whereabouts and her supposed carers were arrested in October 2017.

Margaret Fleming in pictures taken more than 22 years ago including on a picnic with Edward Cairney and Avril Jones. Picture: Contributed

It was claimed the last independent sighting of her was at a family event on December 17, 1999.

The body of Ms Fleming, who would now have been 41, has never been found.

Cairney and Jones told a string of lies in an attempt to cover their tracks.

They claimed Ms Fleming had ‘run off with Travellers’ and was a gang-master over agricultural workers in Europe and made up a series of excuses for her disappearance.

The filthy and run down bungalow they lived in overlooking the Firth of Clyde was torn apart by Police Scotland forensic investigators who found it strewn knee-deep in rubbish.

It was eventually demolished with plans lodged by a new owner to construct a fresh property on the site.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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