Dad’s anguish as landfill search gets under way

Police begin the grim task of searching the landfill site at Milton, near Cambridge.
Police begin the grim task of searching the landfill site at Milton, near Cambridge.

The distraught father of missing airman Corrie McKeague has described visiting the landfill site being searched as ‘like staring into a little piece of hell’.

Martin McKeague, who lives in Cupar, went to the site in Milton, near Cambridge, with his wife Trisha as the grim search for his 23-year-old son began.

Holding back tears, he said that the thought of Corrie lying underfoot in a landfill site was ‘excruciating.’

Tragically it now seems likely that Corrie’s body ended up in the site after it emerged this week that a mistake was made over the weight of a bin lorry in the area where he was last seen.

Corrie disappeared in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, in the early hours of September 24 last year after a night out with friends.

He was captured on CCTV entering an area called ‘the horseshoe’, which is full of waste bins.

A waste lorry collected rubbish shortly after Corrie entered the horseshoe and his phone signal was picked up about half-an-hour later some 13 miles away in Barton Mills.

Crucially, police were initially told that the weight of the waste pick-up was 11kg and it was concluded that the lorry couldn’t have possibly contained a body.

But this week it emerged that further investigations showed that the weight was actually 100kg, far higher than initially thought.

A man was arrested after police uncovered this information, but has been told he will face no further action after officers said they were satisfied it was a genuine mistake.

The 26-year-old was arrested on Wednesday, March 1, on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice. Police have been carrying out work to check and re-check data provided to officers.

As a result of this checking process, it was discovered that the initial weight of the waste pick-up supplied to the investigation was incorrect.

However, following further work and the interviewing of a second man under caution, detectives now understand there was no attempt to hide information.

Detective superintendent Katie Elliott, of Suffolk Police, said: “Through the persistence of officers and their detailed work we recently identified that the data provided was incorrect.

“We now know the weight of the waste collection from the ‘horseshoe’ on the night Corrie went missing was over 100kg, when the original information we were given indicated that this was 11kg, and this makes our search of the landfill the next logical step to try to find Corrie.

“The investigation has identified that the company who provided the data usually charge per collection, not per weight of load collected, and it appears that it was genuinely believed by the company that the data provided was correct.

“There was no intention to mislead the investigation, however our discovery, through persisting with this through our enquiries and evidence gathering, now puts a new emphasis on the search.”

Writing on his Facebook page, Martin spoke of his frustration of not being permitted to help search the landfill site.

He said: “Today Trisha and I visited the landfill site where the trained professionals from the Norfolk and Suffolk police forces will now be searching for my son for the next six to 10 weeks.

“Honestly, it was like staring into a little piece of hell. We’ve been agonizing over this day since it became the strongest line of enquiry into Corrie’s disappearance. And while it’s not the only one, it’s now the priority.

“This all still seems impossible to us - the thought that my son could be buried somewhere underfoot in a landfill site is probably the most excruciating thought a parent can have. We tried to hold it together as best we could today. And we were given the opportunity to speak with, and shake the hands of the people who are about to carry out this hellish task. I wish I could help them in some way, but it’s not allowed. And while I remember standing and speaking in front of the men and women who were gathered there with us, and thanking them for what they are about to do, I honestly can’t remember much of what I said, even though that moment was just a few short hours ago.

“These people have a mammoth task ahead, and the Suffolk police have carried out this investigation with class and integrity, and have made this search possible. The McKeague family in Scotland has given them our unwavering support since this investigation began, and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”

Corrie grew up in Cupar and attended St Columba’s Primary School with his two brothers, moving to Dunfermline when Martin and his mum Nicola Urquhart split.