Police investigating the disappearance of airman Corrie McKeague have begun a full-scale search of part of a landfill site at Milton, Cambridgeshire.
Before the search could begin, preparatory work included building access routes to the area of the site that needs to be searched, moving 8,000 tonnes of bulk material and placing facilities at the location.
Detective Superintendent Katie Elliott said; “The search is likely to take six to ten weeks to complete, although this will obviously depend on daily progress on the site.
“We have a large area – around 920 square metres, up to a depth of eight metres – of waste to search through and a plan has been put in place to manage this process to ensure a thorough and comprehensive search is undertaken.
“Teams of specialist search-trained police officers from both Suffolk and Norfolk will be carrying out the work to find anything that may be linked to the investigation.
“In planning the search we have taken into account not only the need to find Corrie, but also factors including the noise, odour and disruption implications for local residents and site workers, and the safety and welfare of the officers who will undertake the search.
“We know that physically searching the site has the potential to cause an increase in odour and we have taken steps to reduce this as much as possible.
“We hope residents will understand that we and the site owners have taken all these things into consideration when making a decision to go ahead with the search. However we also hope they will also understand why we are doing this as part of our ongoing enquiries to find Corrie.
“We need to find him and discover what happened to him. While the search may not provide the answers as to what happened it is something we need to do as our investigation continues.”
Since Corrie was reported as missing police have been working through all possibilities to discover where he is. The work has been prioritised with the most likely scenarios being examined in detail.
One of these lines of enquiry has been in respect of waste collections from the area, known as the horseshoe in Brentgovel Street, Bury St Edmunds, around the time of the last sighting of Corrie, which was at 3.25am on September 24.
It was known, and CCTV shows, that a waste lorry made a collection in the area a short time after the last confirmed sighting and the lorry was seized in the early stages of the enquiry for forensic examination. This did not reveal any traces of Corrie.
However, police say the waste collection has been one line of enquiry they have kept under constant review.
The area of the landfill site where waste collected from Bury that morning was deposited has not had further items put onto it since police alerted the site, early in the investigation, that it may need to be searched.
Police say detectives working on the case have carried out a ‘systematic examination of the possible options’ including using CCTV, phone and social media analysis, searches, media appeals, talking to those who had contact with Corrie, investigating his background and social life and tracing those who were out in Bury St Edmunds at the time of the last sighting.
Anyone with information about his disappearance is asked to call the incident room at Suffolk Police on 01473 782019.