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Murder accused cleared of defrauding Margaret Fleming

Edward Cairney was cleared of the charge relating to the missing woman in Inverkip, Inverclyde.

Margaret Fleming: Two are accused of murdering her.
Margaret Fleming: Two are accused of murdering her.

A man accused of murdering a missing woman has been cleared of defrauding her out of £182,000 in benefits.

Edward Cairney was cleared of the charge relating to missing woman Margaret Fleming.

His co-accused Avril Jones is still accused of that charge which was allegedly committed between December 18, 1999 and October 26, 2017.

Both are said to have murdered Ms Fleming between December 18, 1999 and January 5, 2000, at Seacroft on Main Road in Inverkip. They deny the charges against them.

At the High Court in Glasgow, prosecutor Iain McSporran QC withdrew a number of charges against the pair, prior to closing the Crown case

These included abducting and assaulting Ms Fleming by locking her in a room, cutting her hair and binding her arms and wrists with tape on various occasions between November 1, 1997 and January 5, 2000.

Scene: Police launched a major investigation.
Scene: Police launched a major investigation. Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

The charge of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by disposing of Ms Fleming's personal effects and pretending she was alive was also withdrawn.

Prosecutor Iain McSporran QC said: "Either insufficient or no evidence was lead in support of them and I withdraw these charges."

In respect of the benefits fraud charge, Mr McSporran said: "I am withdrawing this charge against Mr Cairney but not Avril Jones."

Judge Lord Matthews told the pair: "The advocate depute has decided to withdraw a number of charges and I acquit you of these."

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

Cairney and Jones claimed she fled when police came to speak to her but allege she returned from time to time to collect her benefits money.

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

The trial before Lord Matthews continues.

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