RAF gunner died after getting into bin on night out, inquest concludes

22 March 2022, 17:07

Corrie McKeague was 23 when he went missing on a night out
Corrie McKeague was 23 when he went missing on a night out. Picture: Alamy/Suffolk Police

By Patrick Grafton-Green

RAF gunner Corrie McKeague, who disappeared on a night out, died after climbing into a bin which was then tipped into a waste lorry, an inquest has concluded.

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The airman from Dunfermline, was 23 when he went missing in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, in the early hours of September 24, 2016.

He was last seen on CCTV at 3.25am entering a service area behind a Greggs shop.

His body has never been found, despite extensive searches.

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On Tuesday, an inquest jury recorded in a narrative conclusion that Mr McKeague died at approximately 4.20am as a result of "compression asphyxia in association with multiple injuries", jurors recorded.

In their conclusion, they said his "death was contributed to by impaired judgment due to alcohol consumption".

There were "ineffective bin locks" and an "ineffective search of the bin" before it was tipped, they said.

They also expressed concerns over "poor visibility through a Perspex viewing window on the lorry".

Members of Mr McKeague's family, including his mother, Nicola Urquhart, father, Martin McKeague, two brothers and daughter's mother, were in court as the jury returned its findings.

His father said afterwards he hoped his son can "finally be left to rest in peace", with the inquest shining "a new light on the truth for everyone".

The family of Corrie McKeague (left to right): Leah McElrea, brother Daroch McKeague, mother Nicola Urquhart, and brother Makeyan McKeague
The family of Corrie McKeague (left to right): Leah McElrea, brother Daroch McKeague, mother Nicola Urquhart, and brother Makeyan McKeague. Picture: Alamy

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

He told them: "I cannot imagine the distress and anguish you've felt from the moment Corrie disappeared and the terrible burden that placed on you from that day."

He described Corrie as a "charming, compassionate" young man "living life to the full".

Mr Parsley said he would write to the British Standards Institute, bin lorry manufacturer Dennis Eagle and waste firm Biffa about viewing panels used to see inside the back of bin lorries.

He said he would order a prevention of future deaths report in respect of "ineffective locks on bins", writing to the Container Handling Equipment Manufacturers Association and Biffa.

He also said he would write to Biffa about its current behaviour observation form and the risk of people in bins.

Corrie McKeague's father Martin
Corrie McKeague's father Martin. Picture: Alamy

The inquest, in Ipswich, was earlier told that Mr McKeague, who was stationed at RAF Honington, had slept in a bin before.

He had also slept under bin bags on a previous night out, using them "like a blanket", and was a heavy sleeper when drunk, the hearing was told.

He once downed a bottle of wine in 17 seconds, according to a friend, and was described by his former RAF line manager as a "nightmare on the drink".

Mr McKeague 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.

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

The force said the movement of Mr McKeague's mobile phone mirrored the movement of the waste lorry that collected the bin from the service area where he was last seen.

Mr McKeague was not seen on CCTV leaving the area on foot.