A KILLER carer who murdered the vulnerable teenager he was supposed to be looking after has launched an appeal against both his conviction and length of jail sentence.

Eddie Cairney hopes to overturn the verdict of a High Court jury who found him guilty earlier this month - along with his former partner Avril Jones - of the murder of Margaret Fleming.

Cairney, 77, and Jones, 59, were each sentenced to a minimum of 14 years behind bars last week over the appalling crime, committed between December 1999 and January 2000.

They covered it up for over 15 years and were only caught after a benefits claim was submitted in 2016.

It triggered checks by the authorities which ended in a major missing person search when no trace of Margaret could be found at their squalid Seacroft cottage in Inverkip.

Cairney and Jones then outlined a web of outrageous lies in an attempt to explain away Margaret's disappearance, claiming that she had been living as a traveller and was working as a gangmaster who was also involved in the international drugs trade.

They were later arrested and charged and found guilty following an eight week trial, with Jones also convicted of fraudulently claiming £182,000 in benefits for Margaret.

The sentencing hearing held last week heard that both maintain their innocence - and now Cairney has lodged a bid for freedom.

A spokesperson for the Justiciary Office in Edinburgh told the Telegraph: "I can confirm that Mr Edward Cairney has lodged an appeal against conviction and sentence."

A defence team, under Greenock solicitor Aidan Gallagher, is leading the appeal.

The justiciary added that no appeal has as yet been lodged on behalf of Avril Jones, although the Telegraph understands that her legal team, under local lawyer Gerry Keenan, are currently considering their options and may follow suit.

At the recent sentencing hearing Thomas Ross QC, representing Cairney, said his client maintained his innocence.

He said: "Mr Cairney continues to deny any involvement in the crime and, so far as he is concerned, he maintains that, to his knowledge, Margaret is still alive."

Iain Duguid QC, for Jones, stated in court that his client also maintains her innocence.

The last time Margaret was seen in public was towards the end of 1999.

Friends of the late 19-year-old have pleaded with Cairney and Jones to reveal what they did with her remains, and the senior police officer who led the murder inquiry has also offered to sit down with them and give them a chance to come clean.

Detective Superintendent Paul Livingstone said: "Margaret's family and friends will never know just what happened to her and they have been denied the right to pay their final respects to her at her funeral.

"I would say to Cairney and Jones - if you have a scrap of decency you will give the answers to the questions that Margaret's family deserve.

"I am willing to meet either of them so that they can tell me in order to provide some kind of comfort to her family and allow them to put her to rest finally."

As he sent them down last week Lord Matthews told Cairney and Jones - who showed no emotion as they were led away - that they were the only people who knew the truth about Margaret's body, adding: "Only you know where her remains are."

Margaret's former schoolfriend Gillian Sherrard McCulloch, 38, has also urged them to allow Margaret a proper burial.

She told the Tele: "Now is the time to say where Margaret is, so she can get a proper funeral."

Cairney's appeal documents are now being scrutinised and should they clear a series of preliminary hurdles then his case would be heard by appeal court judges in Edinburgh.