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The family of missing RAF gunner Corrie McKeague who vanished on a night out six years ago wept outside court this afternoon after an inquest jury ruled that the ‘loveable rogue who loved to party’ died after getting into a bin before being crushed in a waste lorry.

The 23-year-old airman disappeared in the early hours of September 24, 2016 after being ejected from a night club in Bury St Edmunds. He was last seen on CCTV at 3.25am entering a service area behind a Greggs shop and his body was never found, and in October 2018 Suffolk Police said they believed his body was at a landfill site in Cambridgeshire.

Suffolk and Norfolk police spent 137 days looking for Mr McKeague at the Milton tip and trawled through more than 7,000 tonnes of rubbish as part of a £2million investigation into his disappearance. However, his remains were never found.

Tragically, the RAF gunner died before finding out that his girlfriend April Oliver was pregnant with their daughter  Ellie-Louise, who was born in 2019.

During the inquest into his death, Mr McKeague’s father Martin McKeague said in a statement that he had a ‘falling out’ with his son shortly before his disappearance after ‘having words’ with him about his ‘binge-drinking problem’. 

An inquest jury has now recorded in a narrative conclusion that Mr McKeague died at approximately 4.20am in Bury St Edmunds as a result of ‘compression asphyxia in association with multiple injuries’.

In their conclusion, they said his ‘death was contributed to by impaired judgment due to alcohol consumption’, that there were ‘ineffective bin locks’, an ‘ineffective search of the bin’ before it was tipped, and ‘poor visibility through a Perspex viewing window on the lorry’.

Members of Mr McKeague’s family, including his mother, father, two brothers and his daughter’s mother, were in court as the jury returned its findings. 

After the ruling, his father wept and embraced his family as he said that he hopes his son can ‘finally be left to rest in peace’, with the inquest shining ‘a new light on the truth for everyone’. He also criticised ‘conspiracy theorists’ who he said had misled people, saying that the inquest had ‘forced the truth out into the open for everyone to see’.

Describing his son as a ‘loveable rogue who loved to socialise and party’, his father said: ‘He could walk into a room and light it up. Corrie was the atmosphere and could speak to anyone. I have lost everything as a result of losing him and he is very much missed by all.’

Mr McKeague also thanked Suffolk Police for the ‘amazing, untiring and exemplary work they did during the investigation into my son Corrie’s death’. 

The inquest in Ipswich was earlier told that Mr McKeague, who was stationed at RAF Honington, had slept in a bin before. He had also slept under bin bags on a previous night out, using them ‘like a blanket’, and was a heavy sleeper when drunk, the hearing was told.

Missing airman Corrie McKeague, pictured with his girlfriend April Oliver, vanished after a night out in Bury St Edmunds

Missing airman Corrie McKeague, pictured with his girlfriend April Oliver, vanished after a night out in Bury St Edmunds

Missing airman Corrie McKeague, pictured with his girlfriend April Oliver, vanished after a night out in Bury St Edmunds

Corrie McKeague's father Martin outside Suffolk Coroner's Court, Ipswich, Suffolk, for the inquest into his death

Corrie McKeague's father Martin outside Suffolk Coroner's Court, Ipswich, Suffolk, for the inquest into his death

Corrie McKeague’s father Martin outside Suffolk Coroner’s Court, Ipswich, Suffolk, for the inquest into his death

Corrie McKeague's father Martin outside Suffolk Coroner's Court, Ipswich, Suffolk, for the inquest into his death

Corrie McKeague's father Martin outside Suffolk Coroner's Court, Ipswich, Suffolk, for the inquest into his death

Corrie McKeague’s father Martin outside Suffolk Coroner’s Court, Ipswich, Suffolk, for the inquest into his death

Corrie McKeague, pictured on the night out when he disappeared, on one of the final CCTV images of him alive

Corrie McKeague, pictured on the night out when he disappeared, on one of the final CCTV images of him alive

Corrie McKeague, pictured on the night out when he disappeared, on one of the final CCTV images of him alive

Picture shows the Biffa bins in Bury St Edmunds in 2017 where an inquest heard that Corrie McKeague climbed into

Picture shows the Biffa bins in Bury St Edmunds in 2017 where an inquest heard that Corrie McKeague climbed into

Picture shows the Biffa bins in Bury St Edmunds in 2017 where an inquest heard that Corrie McKeague climbed into 

Picture shows Nicola Urquhart, the mother of missing RAF gunner Corrie McKeague

Picture shows Nicola Urquhart, the mother of missing RAF gunner Corrie McKeague

Picture shows Nicola Urquhart, the mother of missing RAF gunner Corrie McKeague

Mr McKeague

Mr McKeague

Mr McKeague during a boating excursion

Mr McKeague during a boating excursion

Mr McKeague (pictured) was last seen in a part of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, known as the ‘Horseshoe’ at 3.24am on Saturday, September 24, 2016 – around nine miles from his base at RAF Honington

Corrie McKeague was last seen near a bin loading area in Bury St Edmunds in 2016. Police searched a landfill site near Cambridge for his body in March the following year. In August 2020, police discovered human bones which were thought to have belonged to Mr McKeague in Sudbury

Corrie McKeague was last seen near a bin loading area in Bury St Edmunds in 2016. Police searched a landfill site near Cambridge for his body in March the following year. In August 2020, police discovered human bones which were thought to have belonged to Mr McKeague in Sudbury

Corrie McKeague was last seen near a bin loading area in Bury St Edmunds in 2016. Police searched a landfill site near Cambridge for his body in March the following year. In August 2020, police discovered human bones which were thought to have belonged to Mr McKeague in Sudbury

He once downed a bottle of wine in 17 seconds, according to a friend, and was described by his former RAF line manager as a ‘nightmare on the drink’.

Mr McKeague was seen asleep in a shop doorway earlier on September 24 before he awoke and walked to the service area where he was last seen.

Mr McKeague (pictured) had served in the RAF for three years, and was based in RAF Honington, Suffolk

Mr McKeague (pictured) had served in the RAF for three years, and was based in RAF Honington, Suffolk

Mr McKeague (pictured) had served in the RAF for three years, and was based in RAF Honington, Suffolk

Waste firm Biffa initially told police the weight of the bin was 11kg (1st 10lbs) but it was later recorded as 116kg (18st 3lbs). The force said the movement of Mr McKeague’s mobile phone mirrored the movement of the waste lorry that collected the bin from the service area where he was last seen. Mr McKeague was not seen on CCTV leaving the area on foot. 

Suffolk’s senior coroner Nigel Parsley previously said Corrie McKeague, who had served in the RAF for three years, drank a ‘significant amount of alcohol during the evening’ of September 23. He said Mr McKeague was asked to leave Flex nightclub and ‘was seen on a number of occasions on CCTV’.

‘He’s seen to sometimes be alone, sometimes in conversation with others and seen to obtain food,’ Mr Parsley said. He said that at 3.25am on September 24 CCTV captured Mr McKeague entering a horseshoe-shaped area in Brentgovel Street.

‘You might find based on evidence that 3.25am is the last time Corrie was seen and known to be alive,’ Mr Parsley told jurors.

He said police investigations and searches failed to locate Mr McKeague, there has been no contact with family and no financial transactions that can be linked to him.

Previously, Martin McKeague said in a statement read by lawyer Peter Taheri, counsel to the inquest: ‘Corrie was a happy child, however there were major events that shaped Corrie’s life.

‘When Corrie was 10 years old Nicola [Urquhart, Corrie McKeague’s mother] and I had separated. At the age of 15, when he was first to find the body of his friend who had just been killed on a train line, I believe Corrie developed a significant binge-drinking problem.

‘In his teenage years that impacted his emotional wellbeing and mired many of his relationships. Following a visit to my home town in Cupar in 2016 shortly before his disappearance I once again had to have words with him about it. We had a falling out over it.’

He said that his last contact with his son was on his birthday, September 16, ‘when I sent him a message to wish him a happy birthday and I sent him money’.

He said the death of his son’s friend ‘was a terrible shock for a 15-year-old boy to suffer, and one I don’t think he ever truly got over’.

Mr McKeague continued: ‘I don’t believe Corrie was ever suicidal. This has been a heart-breaking tragedy.’

Mr McKeague's girlfriend April Oliver, then 21, found out that she was pregnant with his child

Mr McKeague's girlfriend April Oliver, then 21, found out that she was pregnant with his child

Mr McKeague’s girlfriend April Oliver, then 21, found out that she was pregnant with his child

Despite a multi-million pound search operation which included two landfill sites the serviceman's body has never been found. Pictured, officials search a landfill site near Cambridge in an attempt to find the remains of Mr McKeague. Police carried out two searches of a 120-acre landfill site at Milton, Cambridgeshire, over 27 weeks in 2017, but found no sign of Mr McKeague's body after sifting through 9,000 tons of rubbish

Despite a multi-million pound search operation which included two landfill sites the serviceman's body has never been found. Pictured, officials search a landfill site near Cambridge in an attempt to find the remains of Mr McKeague. Police carried out two searches of a 120-acre landfill site at Milton, Cambridgeshire, over 27 weeks in 2017, but found no sign of Mr McKeague's body after sifting through 9,000 tons of rubbish

Despite a multi-million pound search operation which included two landfill sites the serviceman’s body has never been found. Pictured, officials search a landfill site near Cambridge in an attempt to find the remains of Mr McKeague. Police carried out two searches of a 120-acre landfill site at Milton, Cambridgeshire, over 27 weeks in 2017, but found no sign of Mr McKeague’s body after sifting through 9,000 tons of rubbish

Police begin to search a new area of a landfill site in Milton, Cambridgeshire

Police begin to search a new area of a landfill site in Milton, Cambridgeshire

Police begin to search a new area of a landfill site in Milton, Cambridgeshire 

CCTV footage shows him entering a horseshoe-shaped area (pictured) in Brentgovel Street, behind a Superdrug and a Greggs shop, where there are several industrial waste bins. The bins were emptied around an hour after Mr McKeague headed towards the area

CCTV footage shows him entering a horseshoe-shaped area (pictured) in Brentgovel Street, behind a Superdrug and a Greggs shop, where there are several industrial waste bins. The bins were emptied around an hour after Mr McKeague headed towards the area

CCTV footage shows him entering a horseshoe-shaped area (pictured) in Brentgovel Street, behind a Superdrug and a Greggs shop, where there are several industrial waste bins. The bins were emptied around an hour after Mr McKeague headed towards the area

WHAT HAPPENED THAT NIGHT IN SEPTEMBER 2016? 

On Friday, September 23, 2016, Mr McKeague drove into Bury St Edmunds and met up with RAF colleagues to go drinking and socialising. He drank so much he was asked to leave Flex nightclub and was later seen asleep in a doorway with a takeaway.

At 3.25am on Saturday, September 24, CCTV footage shows him entering a horseshoe-shaped area in Brentgovel Street, behind a Superdrug and a Greggs shop, where there are several industrial waste bins.

At 4.19am, a Biffa waste lorry emptied the Greggs bin and the bin was recorded as weighing 116kg (18st 3lb). This was around 70kg to 80kg (12st 8lb) more than its average weight.

The rubbish was taken to a transfer station at Red Lodge. Records suggest it then went to the Milton landfill site, but police have not discounted it being taken elsewhere.

Later that day, at around 3.40pm, Mr McKeague’s colleagues at RAF Honington reported him missing.

Marina Ericson, Temporary Chief Superintendent of Suffolk Police, said a Biffa waste lorry emptied the Greggs bin at 4.19am, and the bin was recorded as weighing 116kg (18st 3lb). It was around 80kg (12st 7lb) heavier than usual, making it likely it could have been carrying the weight of a person. Pictured, floral tributes were left at the site in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Marina Ericson, Temporary Chief Superintendent of Suffolk Police, said a Biffa waste lorry emptied the Greggs bin at 4.19am, and the bin was recorded as weighing 116kg (18st 3lb). It was around 80kg (12st 7lb) heavier than usual, making it likely it could have been carrying the weight of a person. Pictured, floral tributes were left at the site in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Marina Ericson, Temporary Chief Superintendent of Suffolk Police, said a Biffa waste lorry emptied the Greggs bin at 4.19am, and the bin was recorded as weighing 116kg (18st 3lb). It was around 80kg (12st 7lb) heavier than usual, making it likely it could have been carrying the weight of a person. Pictured, floral tributes were left at the site in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Mr McKeague was last seen on CCTV at 3.25am entering a service area behind a Greggs store

Mr McKeague was last seen on CCTV at 3.25am entering a service area behind a Greggs store

Mr McKeague was last seen on CCTV at 3.25am entering a service area behind a Greggs store

Marina Ericson, Temporary Chief Superintendent of Suffolk Police, told the hearing: ‘Witnesses state that Corrie consumed so much alcohol through the evening that he became very drunk and was asked to leave Flex nightclub. 

‘Witnesses also described him as being happy and friendly throughout the evening.’

Ms Ericson said: ‘Corrie’s mobile phone, having connected to the internet, provided a signal from this point which mapped the movements of the waste lorry to the Barton Mills roundabout. At that point, the mobile service provider lost the signal. 

‘Despite an extensive police-led investigation and search, there has been no proof of life since the last sighting of Corrie at 3.25am on Saturday September 24 2016.

‘It is believed that Corrie, having climbed into the Greggs waste bin located in the area of the horseshoe in Brentgovel Street, was in the bin when it was emptied into the Biffa waste lorry and this is where he subsequently died.’

Mr McKeague, of Dunfermline, Fife, was 23 when he disappeared in the early hours of September 24 after a night out in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Mr McKeague, of Dunfermline, Fife, was 23 when he disappeared in the early hours of September 24 after a night out in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Mr McKeague, of Dunfermline, Fife, was 23 when he disappeared in the early hours of September 24 after a night out in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

CORRIE MCKEAGUE WAS A ‘HEAVY SLEEPER WHEN DRUNK’

The inquest heard that Mr McKeague was a ‘heavy sleeper when drunk’.

Chief Superintendent Marina Ericson, who became senior investigating officer from November 2017, said senior officers at RAF Honington, where Mr McKeague was stationed, reported him missing to police in a phone call at 3.42pm on Monday September 26.

She said it was treated as a ‘high risk’ case as he was in the RAF, his disappearance was out of character and at the time the major investigation team was also investigating reports of an attempted kidnap at RAF Marham in Norfolk in July 2016, which ‘was later discounted’.

She said there were four overarching hypotheses when she became senior investigating officer.

These were: that Mr McKeague died following an accident; he died as a result of criminality; he remains alive but held against his will and unable to contact anyone; he remains alive and is deliberately staying away and does not wish to be found. She told the inquest one line of inquiry was to look at Mr McKeague’s lifestyle.

She agreed with Peter Taheri, counsel to the inquest, that she said in a witness statement that ‘Corrie stated to a colleague he had previously slept in a bin’.

Asked for the source of this information, she said: ‘Two witnesses who were colleagues of Corrie McKeague.’

She said in her witness statement that Mr McKeague ‘was described as being a heavy sleeper when drunk’. Asked by Mr Taheri for the source of this, she said: ‘Colleagues, friends, I believe some of the family statements made reference to how he slept when he had had a drink.’

MISSING RAF GUNNER DEVELOPED ‘BINGE-DRINKING PROBLEM AFTER HIS FRIEND DIED’

Mr McKeague’s mother Nicola Urquhart, in a statement read to the inquest in Ipswich by lawyer Andrew Walker, said one of her son’s ‘very close female friends was hit by a train and killed instantly’.

‘This event had a huge impact on Corrie,’ she said. She said Mr McKeague had started to train as a hairdresser, then as a PE teacher, before joining the RAF. While he was prescribed antidepressants in the past, she said he was ‘back to his usual happy self’ by 2015.

Ms Urquhart said her son ‘regularly lost his phone or wallet on nights out’ but ‘was never aggressive with or without alcohol’. ‘There was nothing to suggest Corrie had any problems or concerns around the time of his disappearance,’ she said.

She said he had told her that he had ‘bumped a taxi on one occasion, meaning he had run off without paying’. She said that ‘if a stranger asked him to get into his boot to go to a party’ she believed that he would go.

CORRIE MCKEAGUE ‘NEVER FOUND OUT THAT HIS GIRLFRIEND WAS PREGNANT’

Mr McKeague never found out that his girlfriend April Oliver was pregnant before he died, it has also emerged.

In a statement, Miss Oliver said to her unborn child: ‘You bring me so much pain yet just as much joy. Your daddy would be so proud of you, my little one and would love you as much as I do. Corrie will be part of both of us forever, no one can take that away.’

William Hook, the doorman at Flex nightclub who asked Mr McKeague, pictured, to leave in the early hours of Saturday September 24, said that Mr McKeague arrived at the club between 11pm and midnight on the Friday

William Hook, the doorman at Flex nightclub who asked Mr McKeague, pictured, to leave in the early hours of Saturday September 24, said that Mr McKeague arrived at the club between 11pm and midnight on the Friday

William Hook, the doorman at Flex nightclub who asked Mr McKeague, pictured, to leave in the early hours of Saturday September 24, said that Mr McKeague arrived at the club between 11pm and midnight on the Friday

The fitness instructor had been dating Corrie for around five months before he went missing on September 24 following a night out with friends in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

She said: ‘I struggle with finding the right words because sometimes when you have to be strong and out on a brave face you forget about the precious moments that pass by.

‘Yesterday was an emotional but exciting day, and sometimes it only takes one person to help you see what you have. I miss and love Corrie with every part of my body and little things set off different emotions.

‘I can’t help but be truly unconditionally in love with my baby and you’re not here yet. You bring so much pain yet just as much joy and your daddy would be proud of you my little one and would love you as much as I do.

‘Corrie will be a part of both of us forever and no one can take that away. Mummy loves you little baby.’

BIN LORRY DRIVER ‘SAW MAN IN LIGHT TROUSERS AND PINK SHIRT THE NIGHT RAF GUNNER DISAPPEARED’

A bin lorry driver has told an inquest he saw a man wearing light-coloured trousers and a pink shirt, like RAF gunner Mr McKeague had been wearing, when he drove into the area where the missing airman was last seen on CCTV.

Bin lorry driver Martyn Thompson told an inquest in Ipswich that he arrived at the service area, which was the first stop on his round, at 4.19am.

He said: ‘I reversed up to do Greggs’ bin and, as I put the handbrake on the vehicle, I looked out of the driver’s window, that’s when I saw another individual.’ He said the man was wearing light-coloured trousers and a pink shirt, leaning against a wall and ‘looking at a mobile phone, as the screen was illuminated’. I thought, “He’s a smartly-dressed chap, he’s been on a night out”,’ Mr Thompson said.

He said he got out of the lorry to empty the Greggs bin and then did not see the man again. Mr Thompson said he did not speak to the man.

Asked by Peter Taheri, counsel to the inquest, if he checked inside the bin before emptying it, Mr Thompson said: ‘I did check the bin because me and a colleague of mine, we always had this thing with that particular job. It was over-serviced: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. It always had very little in it, two plastic bags.’ He continued: ‘I checked it. I lifted the lid, I can recall what was in there.’

Mr Thompson said he looked ‘far enough to see three clear plastic bags’. Asked if there was anyone inside the bin, he replied: ‘No, there wasn’t.’

Mr Taheri asked if Mr Thompson gave the bin a ‘good enough kick to rouse anyone inside’, and Mr Thompson replied: ‘Absolutely, yes.’ Asked if he would be surprised to hear that there was ‘more than 100kg’ (15st 10lb) in the bin, Mr Thompson replied: ‘Yes.’ 

Source: Daily Mail

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