HMA v Edward Cairney and Avril Jones

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 17 July 2019, Lord Matthews sentenced Edward Cairney and Avril Jones to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 14 years after the two accused were found guilty of the murder of Margaret Fleming and attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

On sentencing, Lord Matthews made the following statement in court: “Edward Cairney and Avril Jones, you were convicted after trial of the murder of Margaret Fleming between 18 December 1999 and 5 January 2000.

“Precisely how that was accomplished and in what circumstances was not disclosed in the evidence and only you two know the truth. Furthermore only you know where her remains are.

“As is disclosed in a victim statement which I have read that of itself is, quite understandably, a source of immense grief as far as her mother is concerned

“You were also convicted of covering up her death in various ways for almost 18 years. You were only caught after an investigation was prompted by extravagant information which you, Avril Jones, provided in an application for benefits.

“It seems obvious that the motive for the murder and the ensuing cover up was financial. You, Avril Jones, were convicted of defrauding the State of £182,000 in benefits which you falsely claimed in respect of the deceased, although it was obvious on the evidence that you both had the use of that money.

“Margaret Fleming was a vulnerable young woman with evident difficulties. She was in your care and you breached the trust placed in you.

“The manner in which you described her when you spoke about her was cruel and the fantastic web of deceit you spun was callous and calculating.

“As you know, in respect of the charge of murder there is only one sentence which I can impose, namely imprisonment for life. In doing so, I have to fix a period which must pass before you can apply for release on parole.

“That period, called the punishment part of the sentence, is designed to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence. Whether or not you are released thereafter will be for others to decide.

“In fixing the punishment part, I have considered all that has been said on your behalf and what is contained in the documents which have been prepared. I have also considered your personal circumstances, not least your age and state of health, the evidence in the case and the circumstances of the other offences of which you have been convicted.

“In the end I have decided that it would be unfair to differentiate between you. That means that in your case Avril Jones I am not increasing the punishment part to reflect your guilt of the charge of fraud, although it will be marked by a concurrent sentence.

“However, the punishment part for each of you will reflect charge 6.

“As far as the murder charge, charge 3, is concerned, I have borne in mind that the circumstances of the offence remain unknown and, bearing in mind certain authority from the Appeal Court, it is not open to me to speculate and to assume the worst.

“In each case, on charge 3, I sentence you both to life imprisonment.

“On Charge 4 I sentence you Avril Jones, to a period of four years’ imprisonment to run concurrently.

“I have taken account of charge 6 in fixing the punishment part for charge 3, but to make matters clear I sentence each of you on that charge to a period of four years to run concurrently with the sentence on charge 3.

“In respect of each of you I fix the punishment part on charge 3 at 15 years, but although there were some differences between your positions amounting to a matter of days, that will be subject to deduction of one year in respect that each of you to all intents and purposes spent that period in custody before being released on bail.

“Therefore on charge 3 I sentence you both to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 14 years. In your case Edward Cairney it will run from 14 June 2019 and in your case Avril Jones it will run from 17 November 2018.”