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Margaret Fleming's DNA 'absent from clothes and toy'

Edward Cairney and Avril Jones have been accused of murdering Ms Fleming in Inverkip, Inverclyde.

Murder trial: Margaret Fleming.
Murder trial: Margaret Fleming. Police Handout

A forensic scientist told a murder trial that no DNA attributed to missing Margaret Fleming was found on clothing said to be hers.

James Hawkins was giving evidence at the trial of Edward Cairney, 77, and Avril Jones, 59, who deny murdering Ms Fleming at a house in Inverkip, Inverclyde, at some point between December 18, 1999 and January 5, 2000.

At the High Court in Glasgow on Wednesday, Mr Hawkins told prosecutor Iain McSporran QC that he was handed a tartan jumper, six black socks, a penguin toy and a blue t-shirt by police investigating Ms Fleming's disappearance.

In his report, Mr Hawkins stated: "The items were handed over by Edward Cairney and Avril Jones as belongings of or worn by Margaret Fleming."

The jury heard that no DNA attributed to Ms Fleming, Jones or Cairney was found on the toy. Cairney's DNA was found on the socks and Jones and Cairney's DNA was on the jumper.

'In my opinion these findings are not what we would have expected if Margaret Fleming had worn these items or handled the penguin toy regularly'
James Hawkins, forensic scientist

Mr McSporran asked Mr Hawkins: "Did you find any DNA on these items that could be that of Margaret?"

Mr Hawkins replied: "No DNA which could be attributed to Margaret Fleming could be detected."

The scientist was asked what his conclusion was, and replied: "In my opinion these findings are not what we would have expected if Margaret Fleming had worn these items or handled the penguin toy regularly."

Defence QC Thomas Ross, representing Cairney, asked: "You found DNA which was not suitable for analysis, could that have been from Margaret?

Mr Hawkins replied: "Yes."

The court heard that none of Ms Fleming's blood was found in the property after it was tested with Luminol.

Instead, her DNA was obtained from blood taken from her at birth and stored in the hospital.

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

Ms Fleming, who would now be 38, has allegedly not been seen for more than 19 years.

After Margaret's father died in October 1995, her mother could not cope and Cairney and Jones became her carers.

Earlier in evidence, Ms Fleming's GP Dr James Farrell said he last saw her in October 1999 accompanied by Cairney and referred her to a psychologist at the Renfrewshire and Inverclyde Community Learning Disability team as he felt she was "socially and educationally" isolated.

Dr Farrell told the jury that Dr Alan Smith from the team visited Ms Fleming before Christmas 1999, but all attempts to contact her and arrange another appointment came to nothing.

The GP described Ms Fleming as having "quite significant learning difficulties" and said that she may have had Soto's syndrome from birth - although a definitive diagnosis was never made.

Cairney and Jones are accused of defrauding £182,000 in benefits and attempting to defeat the ends of justice by claiming Ms Fleming was alive.

They deny all the charges against them.

The trial before judge Lord Matthews continues.

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