MURDER accused Eddie Cairney branded missing Margaret Fleming ‘very cunning’ and claimed she would taunt him about disappearing and getting him charged with killing her.

Cairney, 77 — giving evidence for the first time at his High Court trial — said his alleged victim regularly teased him with the threat during many comings and goings from their Inverkip home.

Asked if he remembered saying to police who raided the property that ‘this will end up in a murder charge’, the pensioner replied: “No, that’s tripe.”

But he added: “Margaret used to say, ‘I could disappear and my daddy will get done for murder’.”

Cairney said he turned to his co-accused, Avril Jones, 59, in the presence of police in October 2016 and stated: “She’s off — this will be one of her murder trials.”

He told the High Court in Glasgow: “Margaret used this often. 

“She’s very cunning even though she’s supposed to be slow.”

Cairney said he was returning from Wemyss Bay on a bus with Margaret when she became ‘highly upset’ at the sight of police vehicles at their ramshackle Seacroft bungalow.

He told the court that the pair of them entered the property via the back door and he went into the hallway, leaving her ‘hovering’ in the kitchen.

Asked by defence QC Thomas Ross what the police were saying, Cairney said: “They were screaming, ‘Where’s Margaret Fleming?’, and of course Margaret could hear that.

“I said, ‘She’s here’.”

Cairney — who along with Jones was Margaret’s carer — said that when he went back into the kitchen she was gone, adding that he didn’t go outside to see where she was.

He told the court: “I just said, ‘She’s away’.”

Cairney added that the police ‘made no attempt whatsoever to get her’.

Earlier in his testimony, during which he was vague on dates and times of certain events, he said he regularly bound Margaret’s arms in duct tape-wrapped cardboard tubes — to prevent her from ‘self harming’.

He would also put a ‘diving under suit’ on her because she would ‘pick bits out her arms’ as well as rip out ‘tufts’ of hair from her head.

Cairney said: “With her consent I put cardboard tubes on her, sometimes with duct tape, sometimes with Elastoplasts.

“When she was going to her bed she would walk in with her arms out ready.”

Cairney also said he ‘bribed’ Margaret with the promise of a new bike if she stopped harming herself and thereafter ‘the problem disappeared’.

He said Margaret had previously went missing for hours at a time but January in 2000 was the first time she had gone away and not come back the same day.

Cairney said he assumed she’d gone to see the Millennium Dome in London because she had been talking about it, but he was unable to take her there himself.

He told the court that he and Jones took it in turns to stand and look for Margaret at the dome but ‘she’d given us a body swerve’.

Cairney said Jones had shown him three typewritten letters afterwards that he says were sent by Margaret, two of which were posted in west London and one in Dumfries and Galloway.

Asked if he posted them, he replied: “No.”

Cairney said: “I thought from the letters that she was going to appear again.”

He told the court that he saw Margaret again ‘no more than a week’ later and then ‘she was gone again quite quickly’.

Cairney said: “I thought she was in London with the wife of one of the blokes from the campsite near the [Inverkip] power station.”

He added: “I was never able to ascertain who she was.”

Asked by Mr Ross QC if he harmed Margaret, Cairney replied: “No I certainly have not. I’m incapable of harming a kid or a lady.”

Cairney and Jones claim that Margaret returned to Inverkip from time to time to collect her benefits money.

The court heard previously that the last confirmed sighting of Margaret, who would now be 38, was at Jones’ brother Richard’s home in Inverkip on December 17, 1999. The trial before Lord Matthews continues.