The father of missing RAF gunner Corrie McKeague has told of his heartache at not being able to lay his son to rest.
Martin McKeague, 49, from Cupar in Fife, hopes a private memorial service to “say goodbye” in his home town will help him gain some closure.
His son was 23 years old when he went missing in the early hours of 24 September 2016 after a night out with friends in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.
It is thought he fell asleep in a bin in an area known as the Horseshoe and was later taken to a landfill site at Milton, Cambridgeshire.
Suffolk Police said this week they had “reached the point where there are no realistic lines of enquiry left to pursue”, with the investigation handed to a cold case team.
Mr McKeague said: “I think from the moment I stood in the Horseshoe down in Bury St Edmunds, I knew that Corrie never walked out of there. I think I knew then that I would never see him again. It was a gut feeling.
“I believe in my heart I have done everything I can do, as his father. I have tried as hard as I can to find out what happened to him. The worst outcome is that we didn’t get him in the landfill, despite all the facts and the evidence that that’s how he ended up.
“It is utterly heartbreaking.”
Mr McKeague had visited the landfill site every week to meet and thank police and volunteers as they searched through 9,500 tonnes of waste in a 14-hectare area known as Cell 22, where it is thought his son ended up. He said he owed Suffolk Police “a lifetime of gratitude”. “I know that Suffolk Police tried their hardest to find him in the landfill,” Mr McKeague said. “They’ve done everything they could and I’ll be forever in their debt.
“It’s heartbreaking that we didn’t find him and we couldn’t put him to rest the way we wanted.”
Mr McKeague said he was now planning a small memorial service this summer to help him and loved ones gain some closure following the police’s decision.
“For our family – myself, my mum and dad and everybody round about us – to try and put closure to it.
“To have a service for him and try to move on from all that time that we spent at the landfill looking for him – and try and start to remember him for the man that he grew up to be. Mr McKeague said footage on the night his son vanished showed the 23-year-old was intoxicated and “not in the right frame of mind”.