MISSING Margaret Fleming was allegedly abducted by her two carers and locked in a room against her will before being murdered by them, prosecutors claim.
Eddie Cairney, 76, and Avril Jones, 57, appeared in private at Greenock Sheriff Court yesterday - almost a year to the day since detectives began their probe into Margaret's mysterious disappearance.
Cairney and Jones, who have been living at an address in Greenock's Lyle Street since the recent sale of their Seacroft bungalow in Main Road, Inverkip, were brought to court amid a large police presence to each face four separate charges.
Crown prosecutors claim that, between November 1 in 1997 and 5 January in 2000, they both abducted Margaret and locked her in a room within the property, where she was then held against her will.
While held captive, it is alleged that they assaulted her, cut her hair, seized hold of her and then bound her arms and wrists with tape.
A second charge libelled against Cairney and Jones says that between December 18 in 1999 and 5 January in 2000, while acting together, that by inflicting blunt force trauma on Margaret or other means presently unknown, they did murder her.
Prosecutors also claim that the duo, having assaulted and murdered Margaret, and being conscious of their guilt, did then dispose of, destroy or conceal her remains. The charge further states that the couple then pretended to officials of the Department for Work and Pensions, social workers and officers from Police Scotland that Margaret was alive, and did this with intent to defeat the ends of justice, all between December 18, 1999 and October 28 this year.
A final charge alleges that between December 18, 1999 until October 28 last year, when the police investigation into her disappearance began, Cairney and Jones pretended to Department for Work and Pensions officials that Margaret was still alive and living with them to collect state benefit payments and claim disability living allowance, income support, employment support and carers' allowance on her behalf while knowing she was dead, thus receiving £182,000 through fraud.
Jones, represented by solicitor Gerry Keenan, and Cairney, represented by Greenock lawyer Aidan Gallagher, made separate appearances in the dock in private before Sheriff David Hall.
Neither made any plea and both were remanded in custody.
The case against the pair was continued for further examination, with the duo expected to appear again at Greenock Sheriff Court on Friday afternoon.