Police are to extend the search for missing Fife airman Corrie McKeague.
Suffolk Constabulary have announced that they will resume the search at the Milton landfill site in Cambridgeshire, despite a review into the search so far being incomplete.
The extended search, which is likely to take four to six weeks, will concentrate on an area of Cell 22 next to the site of the earlier search. The indications are this is the next most likely area where Corrie could be.
Said a police spokesman: “The decision to resume the search at the site for the missing airman has been taken after thorough consideration of all the issues involved.
“Careful re-checking of the data available to the Major Investigation Team has concluded the area of the original 20-week search is still the location where there was the highest likelihood of finding Corrie.
“However, the nature of waste disposal and its movement is not a precise science.
“During the inquiry officers have had to acknowledge and understand the potential for variance in the information they have to work from.
“The pause following the initial search between March and July has allowed detectives the opportunity to thoroughly scrutinise the robustness of this data once again.”
Detective Superintendent Katie Elliott, who is in charge of the operation, said: “Throughout this rigorous investigation we have remained committed to following all reasonable lines of enquiry in our endeavours to discover what has happened to Corrie.
“Confronted by the variances in the way waste can be deposited and through further investigation we cannot discount the possibility Corrie may be elsewhere in Cell 22. Therefore, we believe our decision to extend the search area is the correct one.
“We have spoken to Corrie’s mum and dad to explain our decision, and share in detail the reasons behind it. We will, of course, continue to work together with Corrie’s family as the inquiry progresses.
“We can only hope that over the coming weeks the resumption of the search brings the answers that we are all hoping for and especially, of course, for Nicola and Martin.
“Corrie was last seen in the area of Bury St Edmunds known as the ‘horseshoe’ where there was a bin lorry collection at around 4.15am - 4.20am on Saturday, September 24, 2016.
“Only one bin was collected from the area that morning. Waste from it was initially taken to a transfer station at Red Lodge and then to the Milton landfill site.
“On-site preparatory work for the resumption of the search will commence this week. The full-scale search is likely to begin once this has been completed.”
The review of the Suffolk Constabulary investigation is being conducted by the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU), and the constabulary’s decision to extend the search is supported by the review team although its report has yet to be concluded.
Corrie disappeared following a night out with colleagues from RAF Honington, where he was serving.
The operation to find him is gthe largest ever mounted, with some 8200 cubic metres being scoured between March and July.
The total size of the landfill site equates to more than 68 football pitches.