A pensioner accused of killing missing Margaret Fleming has claimed he is “incapable” of her murder.
Edward Cairney insisted Fleming was alive the last time he saw her – and that he never “harmed” her.
Cairney also said it was “tripe” he told police probing Margaret’s whereabouts that the case would “end up in a murder charge”.
The 77-year-old is on trial with 59-year-old Avril Jones at the High Court in Glasgow.
They deny murdering Ms Fleming at their house in Seacroft, Inverkip, between December 18, 1999, and January 5, 2000.
Ms Fleming, who would now be 38, has allegedly not been seen for more than 19 years.
Jurors have heard how Cariney and Jones became carers for her when her father died in October 1995.
Ms Fleming was a teenager at the time.
Cairney told jurors he believed “a girl’s place was with her mum” – but that she wanted to stay with him and Jones.
The retired marine engineer recalled Ms Fleming went missing in early 2000.
Cairney said: “This was the first time she had gone and not come back after several hours.”
He and Jones went to London to try and find her. They believed Ms Fleming had gone to visit the Milennium Dome.
The pair came back to Scotland without her – before Cairney claimed Ms Fleming returned around a week later.
He believed she had gone to London with a woman associated to local travellers.
Cairney’s QC Thomas Ross then asked what the “position” was with Ms Fleming from then until 2016 when police appeared at his house.
He replied: “She would come and go.
“She would come back if she needed money.”
Cairney said he once bought a £20,000 van for Ms Fleming and a reported house-breaker she had “befriended”.
Mr Ross then quizzed the OAP on police turning up at his home in October 2016.
Cairney said he and Ms Fleming had been returning to Inverkip from Wemyss Bay at the time.
Mr Ross: “You could see the police lights?”
Cairney replied: “Yes, Margaret got highly upset.
“I was saying ‘police are not here for you’ – but she was sure of it.”
He said they entered the kitchen of house and noticed officers already there.
Cairney said: “At first, I did not understand the gravity of what was going on.
“I went back into the kitchen to get Margaret, but I knew she would be gone.
“They were screaming: ‘Where is Margaret Fleming?'”
The OAP said he told officers Ms Fleming was “away” and tried to tell them where she may have gone.
But, he claimed: “It was like talking to zombies.”
The trial earlier heard an allegation that Cairney said at that time: “This is going to end up in a murder charge”.
Asked did he recall saying that, Cairney replied: “No – it’s tripe.”
The court heard claims Cairney then met Ms Fleming in London in 2017.
He said he told Ms Fleming police were looking for her and that they were “holding us to ransom”.
Cairney insisted that was the last he saw Ms Fleming. He was later detained by police.
His QC Mr Ross asked him: “Have you ever harmed Margaret?”
Cairney replied: “No, I certainly have not. I am incapable of harming a lady… just cannot do that.”
Jurors also heard again of interviews he gave to journalist Russell Findlay and BBC Scotland reporter Suzanne Allan before he was held.
Among several claims, Cairney said Ms Fleming had became a “gangmaster” and was also “buying and selling” drugs.
Cairney said he was telling the “truth” in the interviews and was also asked about claims made by ex-fireman Paul Neeson during the trial.
Mr Neeson said he once smelled burning human flesh from a bonfire at Cairney’s home.
The trial continues.