The disappearance of 23 year-old Corrie McKeague in 2016 has led to years of unanswered questions, debates and above all – a heartbroken family.
McKeague vanished on the 24th September 2016 in Suffolk, England, following a night out. While most believe that an unfortunate turn of events resulted in him dying in a bin lorry, not everyone believes – nor does all the evidence suggest – that this is accurate.
This article reviews this missing persons case. Towards the end of the article is a reader’s poll, which we invite you to vote on. This will help us to see what the overall belief is from our readers.
Corrie McKeague was born and raised in Scotland. At the age of just 20, Corrie joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) Regiment – with Corrie based at RAF Honington, having passed training at the same base.
Corrie therefore was based in Suffolk, England – a few hundred miles from his family in Scotland. But Corrie made regular trips back, and kept in touch regularly with his mother Nicola.
By all accounts, Corrie was a dedicated member of the RAF, where he was a gunner. At the time of his disappearance, Corrie was in Suffolk, England.
On September 23rd 2016, Corrie was on a night out with friends in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. Corrie is known to have driven himself to the town, with the intention of leaving his car overnight – allowing him to consume alcohol in the evening.
At around 12.30am-1.00am on September 24th, Corrie was asked to leave the town’s Flex nightclub, after a doorman deemed him too drunk. He was therefore separated from his friends.
Corrie then went to a takeaway named Mama Mia – which was a regular stop-off for him following nights out. Corrie roamed around the town and briefly slept in a doorway, before being seen for the last time on CCTV at 3:25am.
Corrie was seen walking, before turning left into a cul-de-sac-like alley – off camera. This alley was shaped like a horseshoe, meaning the only way in and out was the adjoining road. Therefore, the CCTV camera was perfectly placed. The CCTV footage is below:
The CCTV failed to ever spot any sign of Corrie leaving the area and re-emerging onto the camera. It seemed that Corrie had vanished from the area without trace.
Corrie was due back at work on Monday 26th September. However, after he didn’t show up, he was reported as missing. Critical time had been lost in the 48 hours between the final CCTV sighting and Corrie being reported as missing.
After Corrie’s friends and family had not heard from him at all, an investigation was launched. The Police launched an initial search in conjunction with the RAF’s Search and Rescue team – both of which were assisted by helicopters. The area of Bury St. Edmunds and Honington were searched, albeit with no sign of Corrie.
The Police spent a long time tracing Corrie’s steps, and following hours of watching CCTV, they were able to identify Corrie’s final movements. As mentioned above, he wasn’t seen again after turning into the horseshoe area.
The Police were able to piece together some parts of what may have happened to Corrie in the hours following him going into the horseshoe area. Data from phone masts showed that Corrie’s phone had moved to the village of Barton Mills – 12 miles away from Bury St. Edmunds.
The data suggested that this journey took 28 minutes – realistically meaning that Corrie must have been driven, rather than walking. The phone stayed in the same area – Barton Mills – until 8am, when the phone became either damaged or it ran out of battery, as no further data was transmitted.
The horseshoe area had several wheelie bins in them. This raised the possibility that Corrie had slept in one of the bins. Tragically, this may have resulted in Corrie being scooped out of the wheelie bin into a bin lorry.
The Police believed they had a breakthrough when they realised that a bin lorry did indeed travel on that route at a time that fit in with their timeline. The lorry left the area just over an hour after Corrie was last seen on CCTV,
However, the bin lorry on that route was said to only have been carrying a load of 33 pounds – with Corrie himself weighing around 200 pounds. Based on this, investigators believed that Corrie had not been in a wheelie bin.
The Police also explored the possibility that someone gave a lift to Corrie. It is possible that Corrie was planning on walking back to his base in Honington – around 10 miles away. There is a chance that Corrie somehow avoided the CCTV and whilst walking, was given a lift by someone, before being driven somewhere.
The Police were struggling, with nothing concrete coming from any of the above lines of enquiry. Searches continued, with a new theory from investigators being that Corrie had been walking back to his base and was hit by a car. 5 square miles of woodland was searched between Barton Mills and RAF Honington – though nothing was found.
Controversy followed in late December 2016, as Corrie’s mother Nicola spoke to the media – criticising the Police for not investigating Corrie’s disappearance properly. The Police dismissed the criticism.
But Nicola’s criticism appeared to spur the public on, with a public appeal for donations to help the search for Corrie reaching over £50,000. Nicola ended up putting a £50,000 reward up for information about Corrie that would result in him being found.
In February 2017, Suffolk Police announced that a widescale search of a landfill site near Barton Mills would be conducted. At this point, the Police had returned to the theory that Corrie had been in a wheelie bin.
The Police planned on a 10 week long search which was set to cover 1,100 square yards, at a depth of 25 feet. The Police made good progress in the first few weeks.
However, a crushing blow for Corrie’s family came in early March. The Police found that the reported weight of the bin lorry that might have been carrying Corrie was incorrect. In actual fact, the bin lorry had been close to 220 pounds – meaning it was highly likely that something heavy – such as a human – was in the bin lorry.
Despite this, the Police continued with their searches. By May, they had searched over 3,000 tons of waste. The search eventually went on for 20 weeks, when it was eventually called off on 21st July 2017 – 10 months after Corrie disappeared. The search was called off due to there being no sign of Corrie.
Just over a year after Corrie’s disappearance – in October 2017 – the Police announced that they were going to start searching a landfill site in Milton, Cambridgeshire. After several months of searches, there was still no sign of Corrie.
The total cost of the investigation had reached over £2million by January 2018. This made the investigation one of the most expensive missing person’s cases in history.
Just over five years after Corrie’s disappearance, an official inquest was conducted. The inquest lasted 2 weeks, and after taking all of the evidence into account, it was concluded that Corrie had died after climbing into the wheelie bin which was in turn disposed of into a bin lorry. Sadly, he would’ve been crushed to death.
The jurors concluded that Corrie would have died at approximately 04:20am – around an hour after last being seen on CCTV. They believed that alcohol played a role in his disappearance – potentially clouding his judgment.
In a sad twist of fate, Corrie – unbeknownst to him – was going to be a father. His girlfriend April Oliver was pregnant with Corrie’s baby at the time he disappeared. Neither were aware at the time that Corrie disappeared. April gave birth to Ellie-Louise in June 2017.
Admittedly, there is a mountain of evidence to suggest that Corrie tragically died in the bin lorry. However, there are other theories too that cannot necessarily be discounted.
Here are some of the main arguments for each theory:
Theory One: Corrie slept in the wheelie bin and died in the bin lorry
Most of the evidence does point to Corrie dying in the bin lorry. As Corrie seemingly didn’t emerge from the horseshoe area, it would be logical that he slept in one of the wheelie bins.
As Corrie had been drinking alcohol, and the fact that no one else was there to look out for him – it does appear to be feasible that he would be in the wheelie bin.
Then the fact that the wheelie bins were emptied approximately an hour after Corrie was last seen on CCTV would also fit this theory. Moreover, the lorry was known to be heavy on that occasion – which would fit with the idea of Corrie being in it.
Sadly, this would’ve resulted in Corrie being crushed to death, we can only hope that if this is accurate – that it was a quick and painless death. His remains would then presumably be in either the Barton Mills or Milford landfill sites.
However, if this is correct, then is it really feasible that after all the searches, that Corrie’s remains wouldn’t be found? Equally, his mobile phone was never recovered. Could all of those searches really not find any trace of Corrie or his phone?
But in response to the above, forensic pathologists have gone on record to say that if Corrie had indeed been crushed to death, the rate of decomposition would be much quicker than normal – meaning all trace of him could be easily lost, which could explain why he wasn’t found in the landfill sites.
Corrie’s mother Nicola has disputed the idea that Corrie would sleep in a bin. She also believes that the original weight of the bin was accurate – and that someone had tampered with the findings, or made intentional miscalculations, hinting at a wider conspiracy.
Theory Two: Corrie walked back, third party involvement
From the outset, the major flaw in this theory is that Corrie was not seen leaving the horseshoe area on CCTV. But if Corrie somehow managed to evade the CCTV, then it is possible that this theory is accurate.
Corrie may have rested for a bit, then decided to try and either walk back to RAF Honington, or get a taxi. Any number of things could have happened if this is true.
For example, Corrie may have been hit by a car, with the driver then trying to dispose of his body to cover his or her tracks. But disposing of a body is very difficult.
Equally, Corrie may have got a lift from a stranger who had nefarious intentions – whether it be to kill Corrie, lead him into domestic servitude, or anything else. Corrie’s mother did say that he was known to get lifts from strangers.
It is unknown if there was any involvement from a third party. But if Corrie was able to evade CCTV and leave the horseshoe area, then there is every chance that something happened to him at the hands of a stranger.
The major problem with this theory is that it was seemingly impossible to leave the horseshoe area without being captured on CCTV, as the video above showed.
Theory Three: Corrie took his own life
Another theory is that Corrie decided to take his own life. While Corrie wasn’t known to be mentally ill, there is always a possibility he was.
Moreover, as he had consumed a lot of alcohol, his judgment may have been compromised. It is possible that he took his own life by climbing into the wheelie bin – but the chances of this seem remote, given that he had no prior knowledge that the wheelie bins would be emptied within hours. Also, of all the ways to die, being crushed to death is a rather grisly method.
Corrie’s father Martin – who had separated with Nicola – suggested in 2018 that Corrie had indeed took his own life. He reasoned that Corrie was under pressure from fatherhood. However, it has been established that Corrie did not know about being a father at the time.
However, this theory has been heavily disputed. At 3:08am in the morning of the 24th, Corrie had sent a message to his brother with plans to meet up. He had also booked a flight home to Scotland for a trip 6 weeks in advance.
Corrie also had a family he got on well with, a girlfriend, a good job, a pet he loved – and seemingly everything to live for. This makes this particular theory unlikely.
Theory Four: Corrie intentionally vanished
In any case like this, there is always a chance that Corrie intentionally disappeared. As mentioned above, it seems he had everything to live for, but maybe he was secretly disillusioned with life.
The only circumstance that endorses this theory would be the fact that no body has ever been found in the search for Corrie.
It is possible that he intentionally vanished – he may even be alive to this day, living in secrecy. However, in this day and age it is highly unlikely that this would be possible.
Furthermore, Corrie had plans for upcoming weeks and was not seen leaving the horseshoe area. Is it really feasible that Corrie would have made this decision in a heartbeat on a night out? There was no sign of any preparation.
Now that we’ve analysed the four theories above, we now invite you to vote on which theory you believe is the most accurate in the poll below:
As with any disappearance, whatever happened to Corrie McKeague is a tragedy. It is horrible to think what he went through, and what his family continues to go through.
There is always the chance that Corrie is still alive, but this seems rather remote. It is desperately sad too that he will seemingly never meet his daughter.
If Corrie did indeed decide to sleep in a wheelie bin, then it was a terrible stroke of bad luck that a bin lorry would happen to empty the wheelie bin within hours. Hope remains that one day definitive answers will be found.