A rubbish bin collected from the site where missing RAF serviceman Corrie McKeague was last seen was heavy enough to have contained a human body, police confirmed on Tuesday.
Detectives hunting for the 23-year-old gunner have spent five months believing the waste collected from the area weighed just 11kg.
But after re-checking information supplied to them, they now say the weight of the pick-up was more than 100kg.
It therefore means that Corrie’s body could have been transported to a landfill site in Milton, Cambridgeshire, which is now being searched by specialist officers.
Suffolk Police also confirmed last night that the 26-year-old man arrested on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice will face no further action.
Haydn Stephens, a distribution worker for Biffa Waste Services, was held about information he provided to the investigation.
But following his arrest and the interviewing of a second man under caution, detectives now believe there was no attempt to hide information.
Detective Superintendent Katie Elliott said; “Through the persistence of officers and their detailed work we recently identified that the data provided was incorrect.
“We now know the weight of the waste collection from the ‘horseshoe’ on the night Corrie went missing was over 100kg, when the original information we were given indicated that this was 11kg, and this makes our search of the landfill the next logical step to try to find Corrie.
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“The investigation has identified that the company who provided the data usually charge per collection, not per weight of load collected, and it appears that it was genuinely believed by the company that the data provided was correct.
“There was no intention to mislead the investigation, however our discovery, through persisting with this through our enquiries and evidence gathering, now puts a new emphasis on the search.
“Corrie’s family have been made aware of this new information and we continue to liaise with them as we move forward.”
Corrie was last seen following a night out with friends in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
CCTV captured the last sightings of him walking into an area known as The Horseshoe around 3.25am on 24 September.
Waste was collected from there just hours later and its route appeared to coincide with the movements of Corrie’s phone.
However, forensics found no trace of him in the vehicle.
The landfill site where waste was deposited has not had further items put onto it since police alerted the site, early in the investigation, to the possibility that this may need to be searched.
Corrie’s father Martin McKeague, who is a former binman himself, has travelled to Suffolk with his wife Trisha for the search, which could last up to ten weeks.
He admitted he is haunted by the fear Corrie may have been in the bin lorry.
Martin, a former binman with Perth and Kinross Council, said: “As a former binman I can’t believe he could have been missed.
“I worked in the refuse and recycling industry and find it hard to figure out how Corrie could have been missed if he was in one of those bins.
“I know all about what happens to the contents of a bin when it is tipped into the lorry, what happens to make the rubbish more compressed in the back of the truck and how it is emptied at a landfill holding site.
“It’s haunting to think Corrie may have been in one of those bins, what may have happened.”
Corrie’s mother Nicola Urquhart, 48, previously admitted she fears there is a “good possibility” her son’s body will be found at a landfill site.
She said: “I think there’s a good possibility that that’s where he could have ended up, because I try to look at things logically.
“What we know is that he’s not left on foot, he’s not still in there now, so he’s left in a vehicle.
“That means he could have gone in a bin and then in the bin lorry, or in one of the other vehicles that were there.
“I don’t think anyone who has put Corrie there is going to come forward - they would have done it by now.
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“But if someone knows how someone is behaving, if they are behaving oddly, we’re going to find Corrie if he’s in that landfill, so come forward now, so whoever has put him there doesn’t get away with saying he’s fallen in a bin and it’s an accident.
“At least give us some more closure, not just finding Corrie, but also how he got there and what happened to him.”
Detectives have so far spent more than £300,000 in their search to find Corrie, including using Cadaver dogs, trained to sniff out dead bodies.
The investigation is one of the most expensive ever carried out by Suffolk and Norfolk Constabularies.
Det Supt Elliott added: “Our extensive work around CCTV to see if Corrie could have left the Brentgovel Street area and the vast number of other enquiries we have been making have been crucial to getting us to this point.
“We have had to be methodical and systematic in our approach to ensure we were not ruling out the line of enquiry that may give us the answers.
“The search of the landfill is a huge undertaking, and still may not provide the answer as to what happened, but now, with new information uncovered by the officers working on the case, this is the priority.
“We would like to thank all of those organisations who have been assisting with the investigation. Their assistance and co-operation throughout has allowed us to conduct the enquiries we needed to do and we are grateful that they have been supportive of our work.”
Corrie’s family have also raised more than £50,000 to draft in private investigators to help and have organised three private searches in their desperate hunt for clues.
Following Corrie’s disappearance, it has also emerged that Corrie’s girlfriend April Oliver, 21, is pregnant with his child.
Miss Oliver said Corrie did not know about the baby which is due in late spring or early summer.
Corrie is originally from Fife in Scotland and moved down to Suffolk to live at RAF Honington where he worked as a gunner and team medic in the air force.
• Anyone with information about his disappearance is asked to call the incident room at Suffolk Police on 01473 782019