Corrie McKeague inquest: Detective ‘suspicious’ of reset of bin weights device

Inquest heard that an electronic device, used to get bin weights, was returned to factory settings the day before it was collected by police.

Sam Russell
Wednesday 16 March 2022 13:50 GMT
Missing RAF serviceman Corrie McKeague at around 3.25am on September 24, 2016 (Suffolk Police/PA)
Missing RAF serviceman Corrie McKeague at around 3.25am on September 24, 2016 (Suffolk Police/PA) (PA Media)

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A device used to record bin weights on the bin lorry that visited the area where RAF gunner Corrie McKeague was last seen was returned to factory settings the day before it was collected by police, an inquest heard.

The airman, 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.

RAF gunner Corrie McKeague, who vanished on a night out in 2016 (Suffolk Police/PA)
RAF gunner Corrie McKeague, who vanished on a night out in 2016 (Suffolk Police/PA) (PA Media)

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

Detective Constable Richard Morgan told an inquest in Ipswich that an electronic device, kept in the cab of the bin lorry and used by the driver for bin weights, was returned to factory settings the day before it was collected by police, on February 1, 2017.

Data from the device is downloaded to the database of waste firm Biffa after a lorry completes its rounds.

I thought it was highly suspicious. It was quite clear why I wanted it. By wiping it, it put that data beyond use

Det Con Morgan

Lawyer Dr Anton van Dellen, asking questions on behalf of Mr McKeague’s father Martin McKeague, said: “Concentrating on that wiping of the (device), as a detective constable in a major investigation team, you’re going round collecting evidence for an investigation.

“You’ve found that somebody has effectively wiped the (device) of electronic information that as far as you’re aware they’re fully aware you wanted to look at.

“What view, if any, did you take about how suspicious that action was?”

Det Con Morgan replied: “I thought it was highly suspicious.

“It was quite clear why I wanted it.

“By wiping it, it put that data beyond use.

“Someone at the Biffa depot did this.”

He added that police later learned that the data stored on the device would have been of “no evidential value to us” anyway, adding that it was “ludicrous” that somebody had performed a hard reset.

The correct bin weight, of 116kg, was provided by senior staff at Biffa who got the firm’s IT experts to examine raw data in the database.

The inquest heard that bin lorry driver Martyn Thompson was first spoken to by police on September 29, and the following day changes were made to Biffa’s front-end facing IT system Biffanet so users would see the weight as 11kg.

This did not alter the weights in the database underpinning it, which could not be seen by users of Biffanet.

Det Con Morgan said two staff from the Biffa depot in Bury St Edmunds, who were not named, were interviewed under caution on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and were later told they faced no further action.

Bin lorry driver Mr Thompson was never a suspect in the investigation.

Det Con Morgan said that one of the individuals said when interviewed that Mr Thompson had asked for “reassurance” about the bin weight.

“When I interviewed one of the individuals, what they said was he (Mr Thompson) was having self-doubt about whether the bin was heavy enough,” said Det Con Morgan.

“He wanted reassurance the bin wasn’t heavy enough and he was given that reassurance.”

Mr Thompson earlier told the inquest he checked the bin and did not see anybody inside it.

The inquest previously heard that the time taken for the bin lorry to enter and leave the service area was 51 seconds.

Det Con Morgan said that in 2018 officers filmed the bin lifting process on the lorry and recorded that it took 40 seconds from the bin being attached to the lorry to it being tipped and returned to the ground.

The inquest, being heard with a jury, continues.

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