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Corrie McKeague inquest: Police ruled out taxi driver theory

The inquest into the disappearance of the serviceman heard detectives had ruled out a claim that he had been picked up by a taxi driver.

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Corrie McKeague was spotted on CCTV in Bury St Edmunds before disappearing (PA)

Corrie McKeague was spotted on CCTV in Bury St Edmunds before disappearing (PA)

Corrie McKeague was spotted on CCTV in Bury St Edmunds before disappearing (PA)

Police investigating the disappearance of RAF gunner Corrie McKeague interviewed a taxi driver after an anonymous caller suggested the airman had been sick in the back of a cab, before ruling out the driver’s involvement, an inquest heard.

Mr McKeague, of Dunfermline, Fife, was 23 when he disappeared in the early hours of September 24 2016, after a night out in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

He was last seen on CCTV at 3.25am entering a service area behind a Greggs store and police believe he climbed into a bin which was then tipped into a waste lorry.

Chief Superintendent Marina Ericson said that officers twice interviewed a taxi driver during their investigation, both times after phone calls to police.

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Police searched a landfill site in the hunt for missing Corrie McKeague (Chris Radburn/PA)

Police searched a landfill site in the hunt for missing Corrie McKeague (Chris Radburn/PA)

PA

Police searched a landfill site in the hunt for missing Corrie McKeague (Chris Radburn/PA)

She said the driver told officers he did not recognise Mr McKeague and that he did not take people to RAF Honington, where the airman was stationed, due to a “previous bad experience”.

An anonymous caller phoned the police rewards line a second time “100% certain Corrie threw up in a taxi of a named taxi driver on the morning he went missing”, Ch Supt Ericson said.

The caller gave details of the firm the driver worked for, the colour of his car and the road he lived on.

“The caller said Corrie wouldn’t be found,” she said.

Ch Supt Ericson said that, when spoken to a second time, the driver “didn’t deviate from his original account other than recalling he finished at 2320 hours”.

“He recalled his last pick-up had been at 2300 hours,” she said.

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Police used excavating equipment in the hunt for missing Corrie McKeague (PA).

Police used excavating equipment in the hunt for missing Corrie McKeague (PA).

PA

Police used excavating equipment in the hunt for missing Corrie McKeague (PA).

She said police “were subsequently informed” that the anonymous caller “was a friend of the taxi driver’s wife”.

“We contacted the original informant, the taxi driver’s wife’s friend,” Ch Supt Ericson said.

“She informed police that on Monday, September 26, she had taken a lift from the named taxi driver.

“She stated she had noticed an unusual smell in the car and as the taxi driver had stopped to get petrol on the route he took out a package from behind the passenger seat stating it was fish that had gone off.

“Some three days later the friend again was in the car getting a lift with the same taxi driver when she noticed the car smelt much better and the taxi driver informed her he had picked up an airman who had thrown up in his taxi so he had been thrown out.”

Ch Supt Ericson said the taxi driver theory was “discounted” and she was “as confident as I can be” about this.

She said there was not a call to a taxi firm from Mr McKeague’s phone, with the last outgoing call from the airman’s phone made at 9.42pm on September 23 to an RAF colleague, and the last incoming call from the same person at 10.44pm on September 23.

She said CCTV up until 6am on September 24 did not show a taxi entering the service area behind Greggs.

Police also interviewed a man who did a three-point turn in his car inside the service area and told officers he had been in Bury St Edmunds trying to get cash to pay his boxing coach.

Ch Supt Ericson said detectives “drew the conclusion” he was actually trying to get money “for an escort”.

“It’s our view that because of his employment that would have been against the rules and could have led to a dismissal so gave a motive about why he lied about an escort,” she said.

She said the man’s car was examined and there was no damage consistent with hitting a pedestrian, and there were no links between the man and Mr McKeague.

CCTV did not show anyone in the passenger seats of the man’s car as it left the service area, and his vehicle was in the service area for 51 seconds, Ch Supt Ericson said.

She said that, among the other alternative theories examined and ruled out by police, were a report that two people were overheard to say they had killed Mr McKeague after a robbery and threw his body in a bin.

Ch Supt Ericson said there was no CCTV evidence of Mr McKeague getting in a fight or being followed into the service area, and it was established that the two individuals were not in Bury St Edmunds that night.

The inquest, being heard with a jury, continues.

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