More than 22,000 people have signed a petition calling for the landfill search for missing airman Corrie McKeague to continue.
Suffolk Police revealed on Friday they had completed their 20 week search of a section of Milton landfill but found no trace of the 23-year-old.
They admit that the £1.2 million investigation still points to Corrie being at the landfill as it is believed he ended up in an industrial bin following a night out with friends in Bury St Edmunds on September 24 last year.
Following the announcement, more than 22,000 people have signed a petition, created by Kelly Morris on the 38 Degrees campaign website, calling for the landfill search to continue.
On the website, she said: “Corrie’s family and friends deserve to know if he is actually in there, after waiting weeks before starting the search, it is disgraceful that they would end the search without finding him but claiming he is in there.
“Why start a job if you are not going to complete it.
They have now given up on finding CorrieNicola Urquhart
“He deserves to be located and his family/friends deserve closure.”
Corrie’s mother Nicola Urquhart, who is a police officer, shared a link to the petition on Facebook.
Writing on the Find Corrie Facebook site on Saturday, she also revealed she is seeking legal advice on obtaining an injunction to stop the landfill site being filled in until she gets more answers.
She said: “Suffolk and Norfolk joint MIT team have been searching the landfill for 20 weeks. It is there belief that Corrie is in there.
“This is their strongest line of enquiry and as such they are not looking at other possible lines or have dismissed them already as they so firmly believe Corrie is in the landfill.
“Yesterday’s decision to stop searching at the landfill means they have now given up on finding Corrie.”
In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme with Nick Robinson today, Mrs Urquhart was asked about the length of the search.
She said: “There is a time when the search at the landfill has to end. I completely understand that and respect that.
“I had no issue whatsoever two weeks ago when the police were telling me the search was going to come to an end at the landfill.
“There is a time where they do have to draw a line in the sand and say ‘that’s it’.”
Asked what had changed for her, Mrs Urquhart said: “In the 20 weeks they’ve been searching, the police have been incredibly positive that they were going to find Corrie in there. It is the most logical explanation that that’s where he’s ended up.
“It was my belief and understanding and it’s the way things have been explained to me there would be one of two outcomes here.
“They would either find Corrie in the landfill or get to the end of the search and say ‘Corrie is not here’.
“What the police had said to me in a conversation prior to the search was if ‘we do not find Corrie in the landfill, we would then start to have to look at this investigation as a criminal investigation’.”
She added: “It is horrific waiting for news each day but I would rather be waiting for that news knowing that something is being done than sadly what we’re left with today which is they’re telling me my son is there, that he is in the landfill but they’ve stopped searching and I don’t understand that.”
In a post on Facebook on Friday, Corrie’s dad Martin McKeague, who is separated from Nicola, said: “At no point did we think that the search of the site would end this way, and as all the evidence tells us that Corrie is somewhere in that landfill site, we are heartbroken at the thought that we may not be able to bring Corrie home together.
“But we are, as a family, somehow going to get through this together.
“We would like to express our deepest thanks to the volunteers from the Norfolk and Suffolk police for their heroic efforts over the past 20 weeks in searching the landfill site at Milton for my son.”
On Friday, Detective Superintendent Katie Elliott said: “Our thoughts are with Corrie’s family as we had hoped that this search would have provided them with the answers about what happened to him.
“This has been an unprecedented search, in the scale and amount of waste that has been examined. We have searched the whole area where we believed Corrie could be. We had compelling information that directed us to this area however we haven’t found Corrie and this is bitterly disappointing.
“We have searched over 6,500 tonnes of waste, excavating a huge area. Without anything further to tell us where he might be on such a vast site the search cannot continue.
“All the work we have carried out, particularly around the weight of the bin lorry collection, points to Corrie being taken to the landfill site.
“Having been through all of the possibilities in detail, there is nothing to support any theory other than that Corrie was in the bin.”
Suffolk Police have commissioned a review of the work completed since the start of the investigation to see if anything further can be done to trace Corrie.
They say they remain ‘open minded’ and should the review reveal further lines of enquiry, they will pursue them ‘vigorously’.
Corrie is originally from Fife in Scotland 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.
The petition can be found here.