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'Fewer than ten pictures' of Margaret Fleming in family home

Murder accused Edward Cairney and Avril Jones are standing trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

Missing: Margaret Fleming has not been seen since 1999.
Missing: Margaret Fleming has not been seen since 1999.

A detective told a jury that out of the thousands of photographs seized from the home of murder accused Edward Cairney and Avril Jones, fewer than ten featured missing Margaret Fleming.

At the High Court in Glasgow on Wednesday, jurors heard that there were no references to Ms Fleming in diaries and calendars found in the house in Inverclyde after January 2000.

Detective inspector Monica Hagerty was giving evidence at the trial of Cairney, 77, and Jones, 58, who deny murdering Ms Fleming at Seacroft, Main Road, Inverkip, between December 18, 1999 and January 5, 2000.

A major police investigation was sparked on October 28, 2016, after a benefits claim submitted by Jones on Ms Fleming's behalf raised concerns about her well-being.

Cairney and Jones claim that Ms Fleming is alive and returns to Inverkip from time to time to collect her benefits money.

Investigation: Police searched the house in Inverkip.
Investigation: Police searched the house in Inverkip. Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

The court has heard that the last confirmed sighting of Ms Fleming, who would now be 38, was at Jones' brother Richard's home in Inverkip on December 17, 1999.

DI Hagerty, of the Major Investigation Team, told the jury that she was involved in overseeing a meticulous and painstaking search of Seacroft.

She was asked by prosecutor Iain McSporran QC: "Were there any photographs of Margaret Fleming?"

She replied: "Thousands of photographs were seized, but only a small number of Margaret - less than ten."

The jury has already been shown some of the photographs which feature Ms Fleming with other people, but never on her own. Cairney and Jones claim she did not like her photograph being taken.

DI Hagerty told the court that Seacroft was full of old paperwork, calendars and diaries dating back to 1988.

The last reference to Ms Fleming was on January 14, 2000 when it was noted in Jones' diary: "Letter from M in Carlisle."

On January 6 that year, an entry within a calendar claimed that Ms Fleming had left.

Quoting at random from the diary, Mr McSporran said: "On May 12, 2000 there is an entry about having tea on the lawn with mum and dad and on April 10, 2000 it says E cut front grass and fixed beech hedge. It seems very trivial things were being recorded."

DI Hagerty replied: "Yes. It seems to be a record of their daily lives."

The prosecutor then asked: "That daily life didn't include Margaret Fleming?"

The detective replied: "No, not after January 2000."

The jury was then shown a Christmas card address book in which Jones appeared to mark down cards sent and received.

Mr McSporran said: "Margaret Fleming's entry has no address but a tick for having sent and received a card in 1997, 1998 and 1999 and nothing thereafter?"

DI Hagerty replied: "Yes, that's correct."

She told QC Thomas Ross, representing Cairney, that even during the trial the police were investigating possible sightings of Ms Fleming.

Mr Ross asked: "At the start of this trial someone claimed to have seen her at the Barras?"

The police officer replied: "Yes, but our assessment was that it was not Margaret Fleming."

The QC asked: "You have never been able to find Margaret Fleming?"

DI Hagerty replied: "No."

Mr Ross then asked: "But in the middle of the trial people are reporting they may have seen her?"

She replied: "Yes."

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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