Couple who murdered vulnerable woman in their care ordered to pay back thousands in benefits

A couple who murdered a vulnerable woman and continued to claim her benefits have been ordered to pay back tens of thousands of pounds.

Edward Cairney, 80, and Avril Jones, 61 (pictured), 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, Inverclyde.

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

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.

Laura Buchan, Procurator 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 and continued to claim her state benefits.

“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.

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 over her whereabouts and her supposed carers were arrested in October 2017.

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.

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