Murder Accused Carers Unfit, Court Told

4 October 2018, 15:29 | Updated: 4 October 2018, 15:33

High Court in Glasgow

Two people accused of murdering a woman in their care more than 18 years ago were not fit enough to look after her, a court has been told.

Jean McSherry had been engaged to marry the father of Margaret Fleming before he died from cancer in October 1995.

The witness said she tried to keep in contact with the then-teenaged Ms Fleming, but was unable to do so as Derek Fleming's will put her in the care of Edward Cairney and Avril Jones.

Ms Fleming, who was described as having learning difficulties, was reported missing in October 2016 from her home in Inverkip, Inverclyde, but it is claimed she has not been seen since December 1999.

Cairney, 76, and Jones, 58, are accused of her abduction and murder, and of fraudulently claiming £182,000 in benefits by pretending she was still alive.

The pair are on trial at the High Court in Glasgow, where they deny all the charges against them.

Advocate depute Iain McSporran QC asked Ms McSherry what she thought about the two accused becoming carers for Ms Fleming.

The 66-year-old, from Shettleston, said: "I wasn't happy about it.

"I didn't think they were fit enough, I didn't think they were the right sort of people to look after Margaret."

Mr McSporran then asked if she tried to make contact with Ms Fleming after she began living with the pair.

She said: "They told me she had nothing to do with me. I did try phoning Eddie and Avril, it was Eddie I always spoke to.

"I was hoping to get the relationship I had with Margaret when Derek was still alive.

"When (Eddie) speaks to you on the phone, when he said no it meant no."

The court heard Ms Fleming was "angry" for some time after her father died and had lived with her grandparents and mother Margaret Cruickshanks while her father's estate was settled.

Thomas Ross QC, representing Cairney, suggested Ms McSherry had been "a wee bit dishonest" with the jury in that she had made "absolutely no effort to maintain a relationship" with Ms Fleming after her fiance's death. She denied the allegation.

Jurors were told she had seen Ms Fleming on about two occasions since the funeral.

Mr Ross said it would have been a period of around two years after the funeral before Ms Fleming moved in with the two accused.

Neither meeting was mentioned in a statement the witness gave to police.

Ms McSherry also said Cairney had owed money to her and her fiance, and was supposed to repay them after the sale of his hotel.

The witness said she had lent the accused around £200-£250 for treatment for the bends, which she was told he suffered while deep sea diving, but was never repaid.

Mr Ross pointed to a statement she had given to police which said it was Jones who had asked for the money, on behalf of the other accused.

Cairney and Jones, described as friends of Mr Fleming, are accused of murdering Ms Fleming, who would now be 37, by unknown means at some point between December 18 1999 and January 5 2000 - a charge they deny.

They also deny charges of attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

The trial, before judge Lord Matthews, continues.