The case of missing airman Corrie McKeague is being passed to Suffolk Police’s Major Investigation Cold Case Team 18 months after he disappeared.
Detectives investigating the disappearance of the RAF Honington airman on September 24, 2016, after a night out in Bury St Edmunds, say they have reached the point where there are ‘no realistic lines of enquiry left to pursue’ but they add that any credible new information will continue to be followed up.
Suffolk Police say that Having been through all realistic possibilities in detail over the past 18 months ‘there is nothing to suggest any foul play or third party involvement’.
Since November 2017 police have been re-examining the evidence on all realistic theories to identify whether there is anything else that could be done to establish what could have happened to Corrie.
However, this ‘mature assessment’ of all the evidence still points to Corrie being transported from the ‘horseshoe’ area of Brentgovel Street, where he was last seen on CCTV at about 3.30am, in a bin lorry and ultimately taken to the Milton landfill site.
Detective superintendent Katie Elliott said: “It is extremely disappointing that we have not been able to find Corrie. I can only imagine the strain Corrie’s family have been under over the past 18 months and I thank them for their patience and understanding.
“Whilst the investigation has drawn to a natural conclusion we will continue to work with the family to provide answers to their questions and help them understand what may have happened.
“Since Corrie disappeared, police have been exploring all proportionate and relevant lines of enquiry.
“We have now reached a point where we are unable to make any further progress, and have gone as far as we realistically can with the information we have. If any new, credible and proportionate enquiries relating to Corrie’s disappearance emerge we will pursue them.”
Corrie’s family have been informed of this development.
Suffolk’s assistant chief constable Simon Megicks said: “Saddened as I am that we have not found Corrie, I have absolute confidence in the way the investigation was conducted.
“The major investigation team inquiry has been reviewed at various points by senior officers within the constabulary and external experts, including the East Midlands Special Operations Unit.
“The unit’s report concludes police have conducted a thorough and detailed investigation, and explored all reasonable lines of enquiry. It also endorses the primary hypothesis that Corrie ended up in the waste disposal process.”
The investigation has cost £2.15million and on Friday Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore announced the Home Office had agreed to contribute £800,000 to the cost.
More than 1,500 people have been spoken to during inquiry, 529 statements have been taken and more than 2,000 hours of CCTV have been examined.
The estimated size of the area searched, other than the Milton landfill, is 20.4 miles and 6.5 miles of road.
The area of Milton landfill that was being used for waste in September 2016 was known as Cell 22 and is about 14 hectares.
Two searches taking 27 weeks sifted through 9,471 tonnes of rubbish.
Frequently asked questions:
Why didn’t the police find any sign of Corrie if the two areas searched on the landfill site were the likeliest areas where he could have been?
The records relied upon are not comprehensive and lack the detail required to identify precise search areas. Investigative enquiries identified the landfill site areas where Corrie was most likely to be. This does not rule out the possibility of him being elsewhere within that site or at another landfill site.
Why didn’t police enlist the help of specialist search teams from the army to help search the Milton Landfill site?
All landfill searches undertaken by specially trained search officers. Using the RAF was considered, however they were unable to offer any specialist capability beyond our own.
Why can’t police continue to search other areas of the landfill site if it is believed to be the likeliest place for Corrie to be?
The areas where Corrie could be now, are vast; many times bigger than the area of landfill already searched so it would take years to complete. The environmental and legal impact of digging up such deep and wide areas of landfill is significant and prohibitive.
Why, when Corrie’s last mobile signal was tracked on the same route as the bin lorry in the early stages of the inquiry, did police continue their searches in the direction of Honington instead of searching the recycling centre at Red Lodge or the Milton landfill site?
The weight of the bin collected that was initially given to the police did not support the theory that Corrie was in the bin lorry. This has however since been corrected and identified the bin was much heavier than normal. Police did still explore the feasibility of searching the landfill and a preservation of the landfill was agreed early on with no further waste being added.
Was the decision to search the Milton landfill site solely based on the discovery of the original registered weight of the bin lorry being incorrect?
This decision was based upon reviewing all the evidence held within the inquiry, which included the absence of evidence supporting other theories. The weight of the bin was a considerable factor taken into consideration.
Are you sure police searched the correct bin lorry?
The correct bin lorry was seized and searched. No other bin lorry was seized.
Was there ever a time when there was a lack of staff to adequately resource the police incident room’s telephone lines or the investigation?
Have all the buildings in the ‘horseshoe’ and the other loading bay area been searched?
Yes – a number of searches have taken place both in the ‘horseshoe’ and the immediate surrounding area with experts including Crime Scene Examiners, trained searchers, recovery dogs and air support unit. This included both public areas and private premises and land.
What has been done about the reported sightings of Corrie around the Barton Mills and Mildenhall areas?
These have all been subject to review based upon all the evidence held within this inquiry. Each one has been individually followed up. Additional searches have also been carried out where additional evidence has been received and supports such searching.
Is there any evidence of Corrie being alive?
There has been no corroborated sighting of Corrie and there has been no use of his bank card or passport since his disappearance.
Is it possible for Corrie to have left the Horseshoe without being seen on CCTV?
Despite over 2000 hours of CCTV footage viewed Corrie is not seen on any of it. It is almost impossible for Corrie to have left the horseshoe on foot without being seen.
Have you identified and spoken to all the people who were on the CCTV images issued as part of the inquiry?
One person has yet to be identified. However, CCTV has been used to track the movements of that person and they have been ruled out as not being involved in the disappearance of Corrie. All other persons have been identified, spoken to and again ruled out of the inquiry.
Why, if there are further possible theories about what could have happened to Corrie, are they not being investigated?
Police have always remained open-minded and have continued to investigate and review all these theories. There is no evidence of any criminal activity or third party involvement. It has always been a missing person investigation.
What happened to the information MIS (McKenzie Intelligence Systems) – the company brought in by Corrie’s family – passed on the police?
MIS provided Suffolk Police with a disk containing information from the Find Corrie Facebook page. Police say this information was reviewed and did not create any new lines of inquiry.