THE murder squad who investigated the death of Inverkip teenager Margaret Fleming and caught her killers have received a prestigious award.

Operation Haerford were presented with Homicide Team of the Year Award by the National Police Chiefs Council.

The team's outstanding work resulted in the arrest and conviction of Avril Jones, 59, and Edward Cairney, 77, and was recognised at a senior investigating officers conference.

Detective Superintendent Paul Livingstone, the senior investigating officer in the case, said: "It is a real privilege and an honour to receive the award from the NPCC.

"It recognises the hard work, diligence and commitment of the whole team and is thoroughly deserved.

"I'd also like to dedicate it to the memory of Margaret and those who found the courage to come forward and provide the evidence which allowed the team to bring the despicable individuals responsible to justice."

A major investigation was launched in October 2016 when it was discovered Margaret, who had learning disabilities, was missing.

She had moved in with 'carers' Cairney and Jones, in Seacroft in Inverkip after her dad died in 1995.

Margaret was last seen in 1999 but suspicions were only raised when routine social services enquiries , following a benefits claim, sparked concerns about her whereabouts.

It later emerged that Jones had continued to claim £182,000 in benefits even though it emerged Margaret was missing.

Police painstakingly built a case against the evil pair despite the fact that vulnerable woman's body had never been found.

An operation to search the run-down cottage and gardens swung into action with forensic teams scouring the area for evidence.

Earlier this year jurors found that the couple murdered Margaret by unknown means between 18 December 1999 and 5 January 2000 at their home in Inverkip, Inverclyde or elsewhere in Scotland, and then tried to cover up the crime for almost 18 years.

They were sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow in July and jailed for a minimum 14 years

Jones was also convicted of fraud and both were convicted of perverting the course of justice.

The judge sentenced the couple to life imprisonment, which is mandatory for murder, with both ordered to spend 14 years behind bars before they are able to apply for parole.

Det Supt Livingstone recently marked what would have been Margaret's 39th birthday by issuing a plea to her killers to reveal where they disposed of her body.

He said: "Whilst there has been a conviction for her murder and two people are in prison, it doesn't mean that we will no longer act on information we receive about where her body is.

"I have lodged formal requests with both lawyers, asking for information and reiterating an offer to meet me to discuss in person.

"Margaret was a very vulnerable young woman when she was abused, neglected, manipulated and murdered.

"It's only right that her family and friends get the opportunity to pay their final respects.

"It's very important that she is given the funeral she deserves and for her family to be able to pay their respects to her.

"I would say again to Eddie Cairney and Avril Jones - your lies have caught up with you, so now do the decent thing and let Margaret's family know what has happened to her."