Missing Suffolk airman Corrie McKeague's mother 'numb' after inquest conclusion

  • Russell Hookey spoke to Corrie's mother Nicola Urquhart and his two brothers Darroch and Makeyan McKeague

The mother of missing airman Corrie McKeague has spoken of how she felt "numb" waking up knowing the inquest into her son's death had finally concluded.

Ms Urquhart told ITV News Anglia the conclusion meant that the family had "effectively just been told Corrie has died", leaving her and them "thinking of what to do next".

Mr McKeague, an airman of Dunfermline, Fife, who was based at RAF Honington in Suffolk, was 23 when he vanished in the early hours of 24 September 2016 in Bury St Edmunds.

An inquest concluded on Tuesday that he had died after climbing into a bin on a night out. The bin was then tipped into a waste lorry, where he was crushed to death.

"How can we prevent this from ever happening to another family again?" asked Ms Urquhart.

"If I can do something about that, I will. There's no way I want somebody else to go through this."

She said that there was evidence presented at the inquest that the family had heard for the first time.

When asked to describe her son, she said: "He was extra at absolutely everything. Even in death he still had to be extra - it wasn't something simple with him."

Ms Urquhart speaking after the conclusion of the inquest at Suffolk Coroner's Court Credit: ITV News Anglia

Speaking straight after the inquest, Ms Urquhart said she now "100% believes" her son got into a bin that was later tipped into a waste lorry and that it was always the "most obvious" answer to his disappearance.

Mr McKeague died at about 4.20am in Bury St Edmunds as a result of "compression asphyxia in association with multiple injuries", jurors recorded.

Members of Mr McKeague's family, including Ms Urquhart, his father Martin McKeague, his two brothers Darroch and Makeyan, and his daughter's mother April Oliver were in court as the jury gave its findings.

Corrie McKeague was captured on CCTV in Bury St Edmunds on the evening he disappeared. Credit: Suffolk police

Afterwards, Ms Urquhart said: "We did have a lot of things that, at the time in the investigation, they didn't make sense to us.

"We've always said the most obvious thing is that Corrie ended up in a bin and went to the landfill.

"We had other questions, though, and until they could be answered we couldn't get to that conclusion either.

"However, we've heard information in the inquest that we now completely believe in the verdict that the jury have given today, 100%.

Corrie McKeague. Credit: Family photo.

"As a family, we've now all walked out of there with a huge weight lifted off our shoulders.

"I want to trust the police. I'm in the police. I'm 21 years a sergeant in the police. My son's in the police as well. We want people to trust the police.

"It's not the investigation we didn't trust, it was the communication we had an issue with and we've managed to resolve that now.

"We've been able to thank Suffolk Police for the amazing amount of work they've done in this investigation and they've been able to make us feel better too."

  • Martin McKeague told ITV News Anglia the inquest had restored "dignity" to his son

Ms Urquhart also thanked "every single person on the Find Corrie Facebook page", which was set up after his disappearance, adding: "It's truly my heartfelt belief that, without them, we'd never have the complete answers that we've got from the police in this investigation."

She said her son's legacy was his five-year-old daughter Ellie, who is the "spit of her dad" and "being brought up to know who he was, with his humour".

She said: "That is his legacy. What more could you ask for?"

Martin McKeague said: "My hope is that [Tuesday's] decision shines a new light on the truth for everyone and Corrie can hopefully finally be left to rest in peace."

He said the "facts are the same as they've always been" but that "some conspiracy theorists have continued to mislead you".

In their conclusion, jurors said Mr McKeague's "death was contributed to by impaired judgment due to alcohol consumption".

They said there were "ineffective bin locks", an "ineffective search of the bin" before it was tipped, and "poor visibility through a Perspex viewing window on the lorry".

Suffolk's senior coroner Nigel Parsley praised the family's "quiet dignity" throughout the inquest.

He expressed concerns about viewing panels used to see inside the back of bin lorries and said he will write to the British Standards Institute, bin lorry manufacturer Dennis Eagle and waste firm Biffa about them.

He said he will also write a prevention of future deaths report in respect of "ineffective locks on bins", sending it to the Container Handling Equipment Manufacturers Association and Biffa.

Mr McKeague had slept in a bin before, the inquest was earlier told.

He was seen asleep in a shop doorway earlier on September 24 before he awoke and walked to the service area where he was last seen.

Biffa initially told police the weight of the bin was 11kg (1st 10lbs) but it was later recorded as 116kg (18st 3lbs).

Police said the movement of Mr McKeague's mobile phone mirrored the movement of the waste lorry that collected the bin.