Police have halted filling in the landfill cell where they believe the body of missing Fife airman Corrie McKeague is located.
Suffolk Constabulary agreed to halt its plans until an independent review was carried out after the 23-year-old RAF gunner’s father blocked the entrance to the tip.
More than £1.2m has been spent on search teams sifting through more than 6,500 tonnes of waste at the site following Corrie’s disappearance after a night-out.
Detectives believe he was taken to a landfill cell by a waste disposal truck after falling asleep in an industrial bin in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, September 24 last year.
But the RAF Honington gunner’s family reacted with fury after the force announced the end of the 20-week search at the site in Milton, Cambridgeshire ended on Friday.
Police agreed to pause their plans after his father Martin McKeague, 54, temporarily blocked the landfill entrance with his campervan and the family met with Suffolk police on Monday.
A force spokesman said it had now agreed with the landfill owners to leave the cell untouched.
He said: “The search for Corrie remains a live and active investigation as we all remain committed to finding him.
“We have exhausted the search as to where Corrie is mostly likely to be at the landfill site at Milton, although we acknowledge and understand the frustration that Corrie’s family, friends and many supporters feel in relation to this.
“We will now take time to pause and reflect where we are with the investigation and will continue to carefully review it as we have done from the outset.
“Police have agreed with the company that run the site to leave cell 22 in its current state and will not be using it for the deposition of waste until the review is concluded.”
Police chiefs have also backtracked on their choice to have Essex Police carry out the review following accusations the forces were not independent enough.
An alternative had not been decided and officers are now set to search preserved waste that was incinerated for any further clues over Corrie’s disappearance.
His father Mr McKeague, a former binman, said: “Following those meetings we are happy with the outcome that a review is now planned, and that the landfill site will not be touched until then.
“Had that not happened we would have been returning to the landfill site again tomorrow.
“As always we put our trust in and fully support the Suffolk and Norfolk police.”
More than 23,000 people had signed a petition calling for the landfill search to continue after Detective Superintendent Katie Elliott on Friday announced: “Corrie had been known to go to sleep in rubbish.
“We’ve explored every other reasonable hypothesis and there is nothing to support any other explanation.
“All the work we have carried out points to Corrie being taken to the landfill site. There is nothing to support any theory other than Corrie was in that bin.”
Martin, from Cupar, speaking with his wife Trisha by his side during his protest at the tip on Monday, said: “We’re ten months today.
“ I’ve been [to the police station] and I’ve voiced my concerns but as a father, I felt like I had to come back here and block off the entrance.
“They need to carry on and we need closure. We need to find Corrie.
“Even if they do fill in the hole, it’s all been searched. They need to keep carrying on and going back.
“Cell 22, I would probably say on the scale of things, has been half done.
“And with the information that has been given at the start, you’ve got to start from left, from the right, from the back.
“They’ve gone right down to the very bottom but the cells themselves are quite complex.
“Right now he’s in that landfill and I don’t want this to stop. “We just need a little bit more, we could be so close.”
Trisha added: “It’s been a living hell and we’re still in this living hell. We just need to know that the decision made today by the Suffolk and Norfolk police are going to carry on with their search.
“We can’t thank them enough.”
Corrie’s mother Nicola Urquhart, 48, had said she was considering taking out an injunction to stop police filling in the landfill site where she believes her son’s body is.
An independent review is to take place into Suffolk Police’s handling of Corrie’s disappearance.
Meanwhile, a retired Metropolitan Police detective has criticised the halt in the search for Corrie.
Colin Sutton said: “They say on Friday they believe Corrie is in the landfill site yet they stop searching, and then last night we have the statement ‘we are committed to finding Corrie’.
“It seems pretty self-evident if you’re actually committed to it, and you believe you know where he is, then keep looking there.
“We were told on Friday that money is not the issue so if it isn’t the issue, then I don’t see any good reason for stopping.”
Corrie is originally from Fife and moved down to Suffolk to live at RAF Honington where he worked as a gunner and team medic in the air force.
His girlfriend April Oliver gave birth to his baby daughter, Ellie-Louise Oliver, last month.
Anyone with information about his disappearance is asked to call the incident room at Suffolk Police on 01473 782019.