Police will be carrying out a search at a landfill site in Milton in Cambridgeshire as part of ongoing enquiries to try to discover what has happened to missing Corrie McKeague.
Since the start of the investigation, Suffolk Police say they have been working through all possibilities in an ongoing bid to discover where Corrie is.
The work has been prioritised with the most likely scenarios being examined in detail and other possibilities also being explored.
One of these lines of enquiry has been in respect of waste collections from the area, known as the horseshoe in Bury St Edmunds, around the time of the last sighting of Corrie.
It was known, and CCTV shows, that a waste lorry made a collection in the area a short time after the last confirmed sighting of Corrie and the lorry was seized in the early stages of the enquiry for forensic examination.
This did not reveal any traces of him, however the waste collection has been one line of enquiry police have persisted with and kept under constant review.
Throughout the investigation a search of the site has been a consideration as police have worked through the possible options as to what may have happened to Corrie, with officers looking at the feasibility and logistics of carrying out this search.
The area of the landfill site where waste collected from Bury St Edmunds that morning was deposited has not had further items put onto it since police alerted the site, early in the investigation, to the possibility that this may need to be searched.
Police say the search will be a ‘considerable task’.
The area identified is more than 920 square metres of waste down to a maximum depth of eight metres, which is the equivalent of almost three Olympic swimming pools.
It is estimated that it is likely take a team of specialist search trained police officers six to 10 weeks to complete the work required.
The safety and welfare of the officers who will undertake the search and the noise and odour implications for local residents have all been factors that police have to take into consideration.
On-site preparatory work is already underway and the full scale search likely to commence around Wednesday, February 22 once this initial work has been completed.
The preparation will include building access ways to the area to be searched, carrying out scoping work, and putting appropriate facilities on the site to allow this search to be carried out in a thorough and comprehensive way.
Detectives investigating the case have kept an open mind from the start as to what may have happened to Corrie and have been working to confirm why and how he went missing.
This has involved 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 – 3.25am on Saturday September 24.
Corrie was reported as missing to Suffolk Police at around 3.40pm on Monday, September 26 by RAF Honington, having not reported for duty. At that stage the last time he had been seen was 2am on Saturday, September 24.
Work immediately began to try and find him. Police formally publicised him as missing in the early hours of Tuesday 27 September, after basic checks had been carried out.
Since then thousands of hours of police time have been spent on carrying out hundreds of enquiries to try and find him.
The work carried out by Suffolk Police has been reviewed by other constabularies and a variety of other organisations have helped in the searches and investigation, including the RAF and Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue.
Detective Superintendent Katie Elliott said; “This is the next logical step in the investigation. Behind the scenes we have been working systematically through the options and we have examined a very broad range of evidence.
“This has involved an extensive examination of 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 – 3.25am on Saturday 24 September.
“Preparation work is already underway for the search and this will be progressed as quickly as possible.
“There are some measures that we need to put in place before the full search work starts as, in addition to the pressing need to find Corrie, we also have to consider local residents, site workers and the officers who will be carrying out the job of going through the waste.
“We know that physically searching the site has the potential to cause an increase in odour and we hope residents will understand that we and the site owners have taken this into consideration when making a decision to go ahead with the search. However we also hope they will understand why we are doing this as part of our continuing investigation 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.”
Police are liaising with Corrie’s family to keep them informed about what is planned, and will also be working to let residents in the area know why the work is being carried out.
Soon after the search was announced today, Corrie’s mum Nicola Urquhart posted on the Find Corrie Facebook group: “Carrying out this search is a massive task and our gratitude to each individual police officer carrying out this task is immeasurable.
“This could take up to eight weeks to conclude, it will be an incredibly difficult time waiting for news each day.
“This is one major lead that the police are looking at but as they have told us today, all other possibilities are still being looked into.”
She urged people not to discuss online ‘theories about anyone being responsible for any possible wrong doing’.
Anyone with information about his disappearance is asked to call the incident room at Suffolk Police on 01473 782019.