Corrie McKeague’s mother reveals family were ‘misled’ by police over Milton landfill search
- Credit: Gregg Brown
It was “absolute luck” that police officers searching landfill for Corrie McKeague have not been faced with an even greater task, his mother claimed today.
Despite claiming that the landfill site in Cambridgeshire was always an open line of enquiry, Corrie’s mother Nicola Urquhart has revealed police released the site four months ago.
However, even though the landfill owners had been given legal permission to start piling rubbish back on top of the area where Corrie’s body may have been dumped, it was only “sheer luck” that it did not resume, Mrs Urquhart claimed.
She described how back in October 2016, around a month after her 23-year-old son disappeared from the centre of Bury St Edmunds on September 24, police rang to inform her the landfill site had been released as police were “convinced” Corrie was not there.
When the police later announced the landfill search, Mrs Urquhart said it was explained to her that no waste had been piled on top through “luck”.
“It was not by design that no more waste was piled on top,” she said. “It is just luck. I think that the area may have already been full, but I was not told why.”
She said that they had led her to believe the site where her son may be buried was being used to dump waste again, despite her “begging” officers to keep a hold on the rubbish site.
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The revelations came as police invited the press down to Milton Landfill yesterday, with a team of eight trained officers seen searching the waste.
The search could cost up to £500,000 on top of the £300,000 already spent by Suffolk police.
Detective Superintendent Katie Elliot said: “Extensive enquiries have been conducted including searches in and around Bury, CCTV enquiries, witness enquiries.
“A search such as this is not entered into lightly and our enquiries to date have led us to believe there is a strong possibility that Corrie may have been brought [here].”
Police say they have been considering searching the landfill for some time, but Mrs Urquhart said today this was at odds with what she had been told over the past five months.
• If you have any information relating to the inquiry please phone the police incident room on 01473 782019 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111
Police respond to Nicola’s accusation
Police confirmed that the landfill site they now believe contains Corrie McKeague was released, but have stressed they remained in contact with the owners and made it clear they may return to search the site.
A spokeswoman for Suffolk Constabulary confirmed Milton Landfill, owned by FCC Environment was initially held by police investigating Corrie’s disappearance, but was later released in October.
However, she said they remained in contact with the owners.
“As we have said, nothing further was deposited on the area where the waste collected that evening was placed,” she said. “When an initial decision not to search the landfill was made we remained in contact with the site who had identified where the waste had been deposited. They placed nothing further on top of this.
“Had anything further been deposited we would have encompassed this in the current search.”
Why search the landfill?
The landfill, near Cambridge, was the destination of waste collected by a truck which emptied a bin from the ‘horseshoe area’ shortly after Corrie McKeague entered at 3.24am, September 24 2016.
Corrie was recorded on CCTV entering the area, which is off Brentgovel Street in Bury St Edmunds, and is never seen leaving or on any other camera in the town.
Corrie’s mobile phone was traced along the same route as the waste truck and at a similar time, before losing signal at Barton Mills. His phone has never been found.
The waste lorry was initially ruled out as unlikely, as the recorded weight of the rubbish picked out of the bin was only 11kg.
Nicola Urquhart, Corrie’s mother, pleaded with police to search the landfill, but they maintained that, due to the weight of the rubbish, Corrie could not be there. She said that police told her they believed his phone may be there, but they could not justify the cost of searching the landfill for a phone.
It emerged earlier this week that the real weight of the rubbish was in fact more than 100kg. The revelation came after an employee of the waste company was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice, but then released without charge.
Police claimed the decision to search the landfill was made before the bin error was discovered, with CCTV, witness reports and the searches helping to rule out other possibilities.
Speaking today, Detective Superintendent Kate Elliot said the waste company was asked on several occasions about the weight of the rubbish, as the police checked and rechecked all information provided.
She defended the investigation’s early decision to focus on the theory that Corrie had attempted to walk home to RAF Honington, where he had been based for three years. “Think if we had decided to search the landfill at the start, and then Corrie was found along a route between Bury and Honington? The information provided early on suggested Corrie intended to walk home,” she said.
This theory led to thousands of hours searching the vast rural area between the two locations.
So far the investigation has cost more than £300,000, with the landfill search set to cost another £500,000.