The mother of missing Fife airman Corrie McKeague says she is refusing to give up hope of finding her son after the search of a landfill site drew to a close.
Teams of volunteers have been scouring the Milton landfill since October in a bid to find Corrie, who vanished following a night out in Bury St Edmunds on September 23 2016.
Police have been working on the theory that the 23-year-old climbed into a waste bin and was taken away by a bin lorry.
However, the landfill site operation – which followed weeks of searching earlier this year – came to an end on Monday – and will no doubt prompt more questions than answers as to what became of the RAF gunner.
Writing on social media, Corrie’s mum Nicola Urquhart said she was content her son is not in the landfill, having said from the start that he was either still in the area, left on foot, or left in a vehicle.
“From the first day that myself, Makeyan and Darroch stood in the horseshoe and saw the industrial bins, we have consistently asked for that line of enquiry (theory) to be investigated and ruled out,” she said.
“We have continually asked for this to happen, not because we have ever truly believed Corrie was in there, but it has always been the simplest explanation as to what may have happened to Corrie.
“There are many things I can do to help in the search to find Corrie but I have always known that searching the landfill was and would never be something I could or would be allowed to do myself.
“That would have left us in the torturous situation of left imagining that Corrie may have just been left there.
“Once all other lines of enquiry are exhausted if this didn’t find Corrie, I don’t think as a mother I could ever come to terms with not knowing if Corrie was in that landfill.
“Our gratitude to Suffolk and Norfolk MIT for following this line of enquiry to what is most certainly beyond reasonable levels is unwavering.
“This is the first time in this investigation I have been updated and completely agree that nothing else can be done in relation to searching cell 22.
“The search team, have carried out an extremely physical and emotional task.
“I would hope that the invaluable knowledge they have now gained can be used with other forces should any other family find themselves in our position.
“I know how hard they have tried to find Corrie and we will never be able to thank them enough for their efforts.
“What I can say, is, my complete trust in Vince and his team leaves me certain that had Corrie been in that landfill, they would have found him.
“The peace of mind they have given me is immeasurable. I will no longer picture my son in that landfill.
“The investigation to find Corrie is still very much a live investigation, we are still a very long way off saying that all that can be done has.”
The primary hypothesis – that Corrie ended up in the waste disposal process – was endorsed by a review of the investigation undertaken by the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU).
The EMSOU officers who conducted the review were given access to all of the information they needed to conduct a thorough review, including all of the witness statements.
Detective Superintendent Katie Elliott, from Suffolk Police, said: “We are still committed to continuing with the inquiry.
“There are a number of other theories about what could have happened to Corrie and we are continuing to test the evidence to help us understand what happened to Corrie, which will assist in providing answers to his family.
“We feel it is important to explain to the family what we are doing, so they have the opportunity to understand and question what we have done, and why we have done it.
“We are acutely aware of the immense strain the last 15 months has placed upon Corrie’s loved ones. We want them to be confident we are doing everything that it is practical for us to do as we strive to find Corrie.”