BULLDOZERS could be sent in to flatten the isolated home of missing Margaret Fleming - because the ramshackle riverside property has been condemned as 'unfit for human habitation'.
The Tele can reveal council bosses have served a demolition order on owners Edward Cairney and Avril Jones — Margaret's carers — who sparked an international police search and a dig at the house after reporting her disappearance.
It is understood that Mr Cairney, 75, and Miss Jones, 56, have been given a six-week ultimatum to either return the crumbling cottage at Inverkip to a 'tolerable standard' or demolish it themselves.
A source said: "The demolition order makes it clear that the council considers the house to be unfit for human habitation.
"If it remains in its current state, and if persons are living within it, then an evacuation order can be issued.
"At that stage the council may or may not decide to demolish it and recover the costs from the owners."
Another insider said: "They have been left in no doubt that the house must either be brought back to a tolerable standard or razed to the ground."
An intensive police search at the property, which is called Seacroft, and an excavation of its grounds lasted several months as part of a huge probe into vulnerable 37-year-old Margaret's potentially 'sinister' disappearance.
It extended more than 500 metres into the River Clyde and also to nearby woodland but her vanishing remains a mystery.
Mr Cairney and Miss Jones reported Margaret missing on October 28 last year but the last independent sighting of the Port Glasgow woman — who is believed to have learning difficulties — was nearly 18 years ago, at a family gathering in December 1999.
In a recent interview with the Telegraph, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Livingstone — leading the investigation — said: "We cannot rule out the possibility that she has come to harm in some way.
"By this I mean that she could have had an accident, possibly wanted to be missing or even something more sinister."
Leads in the investigation, which remains a missing person inquiry, were followed up with extended family in America while efforts were also made to trace and rule out every Margaret Fleming in the UK.
The demolition order was issued on Monday, which means that Mr Cairney and Miss Jones have until September 18 to take action.
A source said: "The demolition order is nothing whatsoever to do with the scope or the extent of the police search.
"The house is in an absolute state, and was before the police arrived.
"You wouldn't know that the police had been there."