Missing airman Corrie McKeague is believed to have died after he climbed into an industrial waste bin while drunk on a night out and it was then emptied into a lorry, an inquest has heard.
Mr McKeague, of Dunfermline, Fife, was 23 when he vanished in the early hours of September 24 2016 after a night out in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
No trace of him has been found but Suffolk’s senior coroner, Nigel Parsley, said Mr McKeague ‘died in the Suffolk jurisdiction in September 2016’.
The hearing in Ipswich was opened and adjourned on Friday.
Marina Ericson, Temporary Chief Superintendent of Suffolk Police, told the hearing it is believed that Mr McKeague climbed into a bin which was emptied into a waste lorry where he subsequently died.
She said Mr McKeague drove into Bury St Edmunds on the evening of Friday September 23 2016 and met up with RAF colleagues to go drinking and socialising.
‘Witnesses state that Corrie consumed so much alcohol through the evening that he became very drunk and was asked to leave Flex nightclub,’ she said.
‘Witnesses also described him as being happy and friendly throughout the evening.’
Corrie McKeague (right), 23, disappeared after touring pubs in Bury St Edmund’s, Suffolk, in the early hours of September 24, 2016
Mr McKeague was last seen alive at 3.25am, on CCTV footage, entering a horseshoe-shaped area in Brentgovel Street, behind a Superdrug and a Greggs shop, where there are several industrial waste bins.
Ms Ericson said a Biffa waste lorry emptied the Greggs bin at 4.19am, and the bin was recorded as weighing 116kg (18st 3lb).
This was around 70kg to 80kg (12st 8lb) more than its average weight,’ she 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.’
Mr McKeague was reported missing at 3.42pm on Monday September 26 by colleagues at RAF Honington.
Ms Ericson went on: ‘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.
Despite a multi-million pound search operation which included two landfill sites the serviceman’s body has never been found. Pictured: The last sighting of Mr McKeague on CCTV
‘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.’
The coroner said: ‘On the basis of the evidence I’ve heard I will open an inquest into Corrie’s tragic death.’
A pre-inquest review hearing will take place on February 5.
At this hearing, consideration will be given to witnesses and the length and date of the full inquest hearing.
Mr McKeague’s mother, Nicola Urquhart, listened to proceedings remotely, while his father, Martin McKeague, and his wife, Trisha, attended the hearing in person.
Ms Urquhart previously said she had asked for an inquest for her son and was ‘extremely hopeful that this will give us answers’.
Martin McKeague said after Friday’s hearing: ‘This will put the truth out to the public.
‘There’s no mystery. We’re not finding out any new news here.’
He said his son went into the bin, adding: ‘The facts and evidence that we’ve been presented with tell us that’s what happened to him.’
Despite a multi-million pound search operation which included two landfill sites the serviceman’s body has never been found.
The serviceman’s mother Nicola Urquhart (pictured) has long campaigned for a formal inquest into the circumstances of his presumed death to be held
The serviceman’s mother Ms Urquhart has long campaigned for a formal inquest into the circumstances of his presumed death to be held.
However she has said that she is not looking for closure and is still struggling to deal with the fact that he has died.
Just last month, she told a local newspaper: ‘I’m never going to get answers that are going to make that any easier to deal with.
‘He’s not here.’
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
On November 5 the Chief Coroner of England Wales confirmed that he had directed that an inquest be held.
A statement released by the Suffolk Coroner read: Following an application at the request of the family of Corrie McKeague, the Chief Coroner for England and Wales has directed the Senior Coroner for Suffolk to hold an inquest into Corrie’s death which there is reason to believe occurred on 24 September 2016.
‘A date for a short inquest opening hearing is yet to be finalised, but is expected to occur within the next two weeks.
‘A pre-inquest review hearing will be held early in 2021. The inquest itself will follow later in 2021.’
Corrie 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.
He has not been seen since 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 Corrie at the Milton tip and trawled through more than 7,000 tonnes of rubbish as part of a £2 million investigation into his disappearance.
Officers carried out two separate search operations in 2017 with the first being called off in July and the second resuming in October and lasting approximately six weeks.
Last year, on the third anniversary of his disappearance, mother Nicola said she accepted her son was dead – but said she hadn’t given up hope of finding his remains.