Delay in hearing to claw back £182,000 in benefits collected by murderers of vulnerable woman

A hearing set to resolve a proceeds of crime action brought against a couple who collected 16 years’ worth of benefits from a woman they murdered has been delayed.

Edward Cairney, 80, and Avril Jones, 61, killed Margaret Fleming (pictured) between December 1999 and January 2000 and then went onto claim benefits worth £182,000.

Prosecutors now want to collect the money from the pair after they were found guilty of killing the 19-year-old they said they cared for at their cottage in Inverkip, Inverclyde.

But during a three-minute hearing at the High Court in Edinburgh on Monday, Lady Haldane agreed to delay proceedings until March 7 after Mark Moir QC told the court he needed to have further discussions with Cairney about his financial arrangements.

Cairney and Jones are serving life sentences for murdering Ms Fleming, and were convicted by a jury in July 2019.

Her body has never been found, despite painstaking searches of their Inverkip property and its garden.

The vulnerable woman vanished in December 1999 but it did not become apparent she was missing until October 2016.

After killing the teenager, the pair embarked on a cover-up which included fake letters and erasing all traces of her at the cottage, where she lived for around two years.

The teenager moved in with the couple after the death of her father in 1995.

Cairney, who was her father’s friend, offered to help and took advantage of his victim’s strained relationship with her mother.

They took control of the teenager’s life and put her through what police described as a “living hell”.

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