A crowdfunding campaign to hire a private investigator to search for missing airman Corrie McKeague has raised more than £30,000.
Cheryl Hickman, who runs The Bull Inn at Barton Mills, launched the fund-raiser last week and it topped its initial £20,000 target in just over 24 hours.
She and Corrie’s family increased the target to £30,000 which it has since reached and they now aim to raise £50,000.
His mum Nicola Urquhart wants to use the money to fund the appointment of a private investigator.
In a statement on the online fund-raising page, Miss Hickman thanked all those who had donated and said their generosity was ‘overwhelming’.
“I mentioned in my last update it was likely the target would be continually reviewed and increased, in view of the support and huge costs that are going to be incurred, the amount has today been increased to £50,000,” she said. “Nicola is currently looking at the best way to proceed privately with the investigation, but this will take a little time to come to the best decision.”
Corrie, 23, was last seen in Brentgovel Street, Bury, at 3.25am on September 24 after a night out with friends.
Last week, the search for Corrie took a series of twists as his grandparents, Mary and Oliver McKeague, announced a five-figure reward for information leading to his return.
Mrs Urquhart then announced a separate £50,000 reward, which was provided by a local business couple who wish to remain anonymous.
She also criticised the police and said they had ‘utterly destroyed’ her confidence that they will find her son.
She said that they had behaved in a way that they’ve ‘utterly destroyed the faith and trust’ she had in them. Mrs Urquhart, who is a serving police officer herself, added: “I understand about the Government cuts but when it’s your own son this reason is impossible to accept.
“I’ve fully supported the police and continue to do so.
“As a family even though there has been some recent negativity all we want to do is push forward with the positive.”
On Friday, Corrie’s dad Martin spent his birthday handing out leaflets to shoppers in the arc shopping centre as part of the search. He was was joined by his mum and dad, Mary and Oliver, as well as Jake Game, 17, who set up a Facebook group to help publicise the hunt for Corrie.
Martin said that he believed Suffolk Police had ‘tried to do everything possible’ to find Corrie.
Last week, Assistant Chief Constable Louisa Pepper said she was ‘absolutely confident’ her officers will do ‘everything they can to find Corrie’.
“They are highly skilled, highly professional and they’re determined to find him and understand the circumstances of his disappearance,” she said. “We are using the similar sort of resources we would put into a murder investigation, we’re putting in search officers, we’re utilising members of the RAF, we’ve got enquiry teams looking at it so we are putting an inordinate amount of resources into finding him.”
Police also released CCTV images of potential witnesses who may hold the key to finding Corrie.
The family have set up phone lines, separate to the police, to take calls from those with information about Corrie’s disappearance. The phone numbers can be viewed at www.findcorrie.co.uk - though police say people should call their incident room on 01473 782019.