Police Scotland are to carry out a search of a remote area in Argyll in a hunt for the remains of a woman who was brutally murdered in West Kilbride almost a decade ago.

Colin Coats and Philip Wade were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2013 for the murder of Lynda Spence, receiving minimum jail terms of 33 years and 30 years respectively - two of the longest handed out by Scottish courts.

Prosecutors have been unable to say exactly when or how she was murdered, but Coats boasted to a cellmate that he smothered her, cut off her head and burnt her remains in a furnace. Ms Spence's body was never recovered.

During the trial, the court heard Ms Spence and Coats were involved in a land deal at Stansted Airport, organised by Ms Spence, in which Coats claimed to have invested all of his money.

She then persuaded a Glasgow printer to produce fake Danish government bonds, which were supposedly worth millions when in fact they were worth nothing at all.

On April 14, 2011, she was lured from her Glasgow flat and driven to a property in West Kilbride.

She was taped on to a chair and tortured for two weeks, and almost daily Coats and Wade would visit her.

Inside the flat she was held using a torture kit made up of garden loppers, bandages and surgical tape, which was used on her in a bid to extract financial information.

She was burned with an iron, hit with a golf club, her toes were crushed, her thumb was cut off and one of her fingers severed.

Lord Pentland said Coats was the “prime mover” behind the kidnapping and he was convinced of his “devious and cruel personality”.

David Parker and Paul Smith also admitted holding Ms Spence at Parker's flat in West Kilbride in April 2011. They were sentenced to 11 years and three months, and 11 years respectively.

An initial assessment of a site near Dunoon is to be carried out in a bid to establish whether Ms Spence's remains may be buried in the area.

Detective Superintendent Suzanne Chow, of Police Scotland's major investigations team, said: “This detailed work involves Police Scotland detectives, local policing officers and specialist search teams, supported by forensic scientists and experts from across the United Kingdom.

“The operation is expected to take some considerable time due to the nature of the ground and remote location.

“Lynda’s family have been informed of this development and officers are supporting them during this difficult time. We will keep them updated as the work continues.

“There will be a significant police presence in the area as this operation continues and I would like to thank the local community for their co-operation at this time.

“I would ask anyone with information to please come forward and speak to officers.”

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