AN INDEPENDENT inquiry into how murder victim Margaret Fleming was allowed to fall through the cracks of the social care system has been suspended.

Council bosses have decided to postpone work on the significant case review headed by Professor Jean MacLellan OBE, director of the Autism Network Scotland, as a result of the coronavirus.

The investigation was launched earlier this year into the way Margaret's case was handled by the local authority prior to her disappearance in 1999.

Her killer carers Eddie Cairney and Avril Jones were convicted of her murder in July last year after evading justice for 17 years.

Inverclyde Council's policy and resources executive sub committee, set up to take decisions during the COVID-19 crisis, endorsed the decision to temporary halt it.

Announcing the significant case review in January, a council spokesman said: "This will be a full, independent inquiry which will involve all the agencies which were involved with Margaret during her life.

"A key area for the SCR team will be to uncover any lessons that are to be learned from the extensive cover up carried out by Edward Cairney and Avril Jones to hide their appalling treatment of Margaret, while she was in their care, and the murder that they subsequently committed."

The fully independent investigation — called a Significant Case Review [SCR] — is examining the actions of all officials who had responsibility for Margaret.

The final report will be presented to Inverclyde Joint Integration Board.

The probe was expect to take 15 months.

Nineteen-year-old Margaret was last seen alive in Inverkip in December 1999.

Cairney and Jones were convicted of killing the 19-year-old between December 1999 and January 2000.

Jones continued to claim £182,000 in benefits until it finally emerged Margaret was missing in October 2016.

They were both sentenced to a minimum of 14 years in July last year following a high profile trial.

Professor MacLellan, spent much of her career as a social work inspector and senior civil servant in the Scottish Government.

She led policy on adult protection, autism, carers, learning disability, sensory impairment and self-directed support.