Police call off search for missing RAF gunner Corrie McKeague at landfill site

PUBLISHED: 16:48 21 July 2017 | UPDATED: 09:03 24 July 2017

Missing airman Corrie McKeague

Missing airman Corrie McKeague


Police have abandoned their search of a landfill site after 20 weeks looking for the body of missing airman Corrie McKeague.

The search of the Cambridgeshire dump, to find anything related to his disappearance, was called off this afternoon.

Police are now in the 20th week of a search at the Milton landfill site, where officers have been finding waste from the same time Corrie went missing, but have yet to find any remains.

• ‘Angry and devastated’ Nicola Urquhart, Corrie’s mum pushes to somehow get landfill search restarted

Police said the search team would down tools by 3pm this afternoon, after searching through more than 6,500 tonnes of waste.

Detective Superintendent Katie Elliott speaking at a press conference on the Corrie McKeague search.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Detective Superintendent Katie Elliott speaking at a press conference on the Corrie McKeague search. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The search focused on an area of waste deposited between Monday, September 19 – when the new ‘cell 22’ was opened for waste deposits and Monday, October 3, when police notified the site that enquiries had indicated a bin lorry may be of interest in the investigation.

Detective Superintendent Katie Elliott said: “Our thoughts are with Corrie’s family as we had hoped that this search would have provided them with the answers about what happened to him.

“This has been an unprecedented search, in the scale and amount of waste that has been examined. We have searched the whole area where we believed Corrie could be. We had compelling information that directed us to this area however we haven’t found Corrie and this is bitterly disappointing.

“We have searched over 6,500 tonnes of waste, excavating a huge area. Without anything further to tell us where he might be on such a vast site the search cannot continue.

“Officers have been finding items such as newspapers and other material that have September 2016 dates on them. This is the time that Corrie went missing. Some items have been clearly identifiable as coming from Bury St Edmunds and this has confirmed that we have been searching in the right place, however none of these items have had any link to Corrie.”We have also found items such as mobile phones, footwear and clothing and each one of these items has been checked to ensure it did not belong to Corrie.

“We have completed the search of the area where we know waste was deposited in this period. In fact we have searched an area that is larger than was originally designated. The work was initially extended to include areas containing additional waste dated in the correct time frame and was further extended in response to new information regarding the location of further relevant waste.

“Sadly, we have not found Corrie or any trace of his clothing or mobile phone.

“All the work we have carried out, particularly around the weight of the bin lorry collection, points to Corrie being taken to the landfill site.

The search operation for missing airman Corrie McKeague at the Milton Landfill site in Cambridgeshire. Pictures: GREGG BROWNThe search operation for missing airman Corrie McKeague at the Milton Landfill site in Cambridgeshire. Pictures: GREGG BROWN

“The search has been complex, systematic, thorough and comprehensive. Throughout the process the work being completed has been reviewed by national experts.

“The investigation behind the scenes hasn’t stood still while the search has been carried out, but all the information we have still points to the fact that Corrie was transported from the ‘horseshoe’ area in the bin lorry.

“Having been through all of the possibilities in detail, there is nothing to support any theory other than that Corrie was in the bin. There are no further sightings of him on CCTV to suggest he left the area, and we have explored the other possibilities as to how he left – such as being taken from the area by someone – and there is no evidence to support that this is the case.

“On CCTV he appears to be alone and we have traced and spoken to everyone who walked through Brentgovel Street around the relevant time, and none of them have seen anything suspicious.

Nicola Urquhart, mother of Corrie McKeague. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNNicola Urquhart, mother of Corrie McKeague. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“We know that Corrie’s phone travelled away from Bury St Edmunds at the same time as the bin lorry that collected waste from Brentgovel Street. The theory that Corrie was in the bin that was emptied into the bin lorry shortly after he was last seen is strengthened by credible information that we have obtained through our enquiries that Corrie had been known to go to sleep in rubbish, following a night out.

“We’ve explored every other reasonable hypothesis – and there is nothing to support any other explanation.”

Det Supt Elliott was talking at a press conference, organised for 3pm today, at Suffolk police headquarters in Martlesham Heath.

The news comes a day after the missing 23-year-old’s mum Nicola Urquhart said a criminal investigation should be launched if he is not found in the police’s landfill search.

Detective Superintendent Katie Elliott speaking at a press conference on the Corrie McKeague search.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Detective Superintendent Katie Elliott speaking at a press conference on the Corrie McKeague search. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Corrie, who was based at RAF Honington for three years, went missing 10 months ago after a night out in Bury St Edmunds.

Corrie, from Fife in Scotland, was last seen at 3.24am on September 24, 2016, on Brentgovel Street, Bury St Edmunds.

Since March 6 police have been searching a landfill near Cambridge on the belief he may have been transported there in a bin lorry.

Suffolk police and crime commissioner reacts

Tim Passmore, police and crime commissioner, said: “It is extremely sad that the mystery surrounding Corrie’s whereabouts has not been resolved.

“My thoughts are with Mrs Urquhart and Mr McKeague and their families – I cannot even begin to understand what they have been going through since their son’s disappearance.

“The officers that have been involved in this search have worked tirelessly for months, in very difficult circumstances.

“I know they will be disappointed not to have found Corrie but I know that the Constabulary has done all it can locate him and I’d like to express my thanks, on behalf of the communities I serve, to them all.

“Throughout this operation I have been regularly briefed and made sure the Constabulary has had the funding and equipment it needed to carry out this unprecedented search.

“This is the biggest missing person enquiry that the Constabulary has undertaken. Our officers have worked closely with the National Crime Agency, the College of Policing and the Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue (SULSAR) at various stages in the enquiry and I would also like to publicly express my gratitude to them.”

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