The search of a landfill site to find Corrie McKeague will finish this afternoon - with no trace found of the missing airman.
After searching through more than 6,500 tonnes of waste over 20 weeks, police say they have trawled the section of the Milton landfill where they believed Corrie could be.
Corrie, who served at RAF Honington, vanished after a night out in Bury St Edmunds and was last seen heading into the the ‘horseshoe area’ behind Greggs’ shop on September 24 at about 3.25am.
Police believe he ended up in a bin and all the information they have still points to the fact the 23-year-old was transported from the area in a bin lorry to the landfill.
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.
“Officers have been finding items such as newspapers and other material that have September 2016 dates on them.
“This is the time that Corrie went missing. Some items have been clearly identifiable as coming from Bury St Edmunds and this has confirmed that we have been searching in the right place, however none of these items have had any link to Corrie.
“We have also found items such as mobile phones, footwear and clothing and each one of these items has been checked to ensure it did not belong to Corrie.
“We have completed the search of the area where we know waste was deposited in this period. In fact we have searched an area that is larger than was originally designated.
“The work was initially extended to include areas containing additional waste dated in the correct time frame and was further extended in response to new information regarding the location of further relevant waste.
“Sadly, we have not found Corrie or any trace of his clothing or mobile phone.
“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.
“The search has been complex, systematic, thorough and comprehensive. Throughout the process the work being completed has been reviewed by national experts.
“The investigation behind the scenes hasn’t stood still while the search has been carried out, but all the information we have still points to the fact that Corrie was transported from the ‘horseshoe’ area in the bin lorry.
“Having been through all of the possibilities in detail, there is nothing to support any theory other than that Corrie was in the bin.
“There are no further sightings of him on CCTV to suggest he left the area, and we have explored the other possibilities as to how he left – such as being taken from the area by someone – and there is no evidence to support that this is the case.
“On CCTV he appears to be alone and we have traced and spoken to everyone who walked through Brentgovel Street around the relevant time, and none of them have seen anything suspicious.
“We know that Corrie’s phone travelled away from Bury St Edmunds at the same time as the bin lorry that collected waste from Brentgovel Street.
“The theory that Corrie was in the bin that was emptied into the bin lorry shortly after he was last seen is strengthened by credible information that we have obtained through our enquiries that Corrie had been known to go to sleep in rubbish, following a night out.
“We’ve explored every other reasonable hypothesis – and there is nothing to support any other explanation.”
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’.