THE senior policeman who led the investigation into the disappearance of Margaret Fleming says her murderers are 'evil, greedy and abhorrent'.

Detective Superintendent Paul Livingstone said the vulnerable teenager's last days at the hands of Eddie Cairney, 77, and Avril Jones, 59, would have been a 'living hell'

He spoke out after after a jury at the High Court in Glasgow yesterday took less than three hours to convict Margaret's supposed 'carers' of killing the vulnerable 19-year-old some time between December 1999 and January 2000 at their filthy and rundown Seacroft home in Inverkip, or elsewhere, and then covering the crime up for nearly two decades.

Grasping Jones has also been found guilty of fraud by claiming over £180,000 in benefits by pretending that Margaret was alive.

Margaret, last independently seen on December 17 in 1999, became the subject of a major missing persons probe in October 2016 after a fresh benefits claim made in her name led to checks being carried out.

These enquiries triggered alarm bells when it was found Margaret was nowhere to be seen, with her killers eventually claiming she had fled after seeing police outside the house.

A massive search, which included the police ripping Seacroft apart and digging up the garden, found no trace of her.

Cairney told a bizarre cocktail of lies as he tried to avoid justice, claiming vulnerable Margaret had gone away with travellers to live elsewhere, was working as a gangmaster and heavily involved in the drugs trade.

He also gave rambling evidence near the end of the seven week trial which helped seal his fate, claiming Margaret had gone to London, was still alive and had returned to Inverclyde from time to time.

Det Supt Paul Livingstone, the senior investigating officer in the case, welcomed the guilty verdicts.

He said: "Margaret was a very vulnerable young woman who was manipulated, abused, neglected and ultimately murdered by the two people who should have been looking after her.

"It is clear that one of Cairney and Jones' motivation was money.

"As part of their scheming ways they also managed to manipulate Margaret's mother, Margaret Cruikshanks before Cairney assaulted her.

"For many years, Cairney and Jones kept up the pretence that Margaret was still alive, going as far as to write letters claiming to be from her."

The trial had heard how Margaret had been close to her father, who died suddenly in the mid-90s, before she came to live under the care of Cairney and Jones.

She went to James Watt College briefly before Cairney and Jones began to control her life and keep her prisoner within their home.

Det Supt Livingstone said: "Margaret was described as being a funny, caring young woman who, despite having some mild learning difficulties, just wanted to be liked and to have friends.

"She was subjected to daily punishment which included being tied up, having her hair cut short and deprived of food.

"The treatment which she was subjected to can only be described as horrific and the conditions in which she lived in were utterly disgusting and uninhabitable.

"For Cairney and Jones to continue the charade that she was still alive for all these years is abhorrent, with one of their reasons for doing so being for financial gain."

The senior officer says it is harrowing to think of the ordeal the teenager suffered in the lead up to her death.

He said: "We will never know just how Margaret was killed.

"What we do know is that she lived her last days in what can only be described as a living hell.

"She must have felt that she was alone in the world with no one coming to help her, which is just heartbreaking to think of.

"All of the detectives who worked on this complex enquiry were resolute in their aim to secure justice for Margaret.

"They wanted to be the advocate she never had.

"Margaret was just a young woman when she was murdered.

"Who knows what she could have gone on to achieve in her life if it hadn’t been ended so prematurely at the evil and greedy hands of Cairney and Jones."

The pair are expected to be sentenced next month when medical and social work reports have been compiled on them.