Daily Mail

The poisonous feud tearing apart the family of vanished RAF man

It’s a riddle that’s gripped Britain. Now the missing RAF gunner’s father launches a devastatin­g attack on his son’s mother – raising some VERY disturbing questions . . .

- Guy Adams

TODAY, like most days since his son Corrie, an RAF gunner, vanished into thin air, Martin McKeague will wake up in a camper van parked in rural Suffolk.

After breakfast and a quick walk for their Staffordsh­ire terrier Laika, he and his wife trisha will drive to a landfill site near Milton, a village outside Cambridge, where police officers in protective gear are picking their way through vast mounds of rubbish.

Here, under roughly 8,000 tonnes of decaying waste, they expect at some point to find the remains of 23-year-old Corrie, who went missing six months ago.

‘this is a horrendous task they have to do — the site isn’t pleasant,’ he says.

‘I can’t help with the search because it’s technicall­y a crime scene, but I feel that, as a father, I should be nearby. everything points to Corrie being here; it’s the place his story will probably end.’

that story has been followed by millions. A Facebook page called ‘Find Corrie’ has 120,000 members. A twitter page has more than 10,000. It has become a talking point on TV chat shows, many featuring his mother, Nicola Urquhart — who is divorced from Martin — as a studio guest.

Hollywood actor tom Hardy has fronted a video appeal on his behalf.

What almost no one knows is that Corrie’s disappeara­nce has sparked an extraordin­ary rift in his family.

At the heart of this story is a simple mystery: what happened to the young RAF man in the early hours of Saturday, September 24 after he strolled drunkenly into a loading bay of a branch of Greggs in Bury St edmunds?

Cameras filmed him entering the area at 3.25am, but never recorded him coming out, leading to much speculatio­n about his fate.

Some thought he might have been kidnapped by ISIS; others that he’d tried to walk home to his RAF base nine miles away and fallen into a ditch or had been run over by a car. Later

it was suggested Corrie had gone AWOL from the military or been lured into a honey trap by a man or woman he’d met on websites when it emerged that he had previously trawled the internet looking for sex with strangers.

the most plausible theory was that he somehow ended up inside one of the loading bay’s recycling bins and was crushed when it was emptied early that morning by the waste firm Biffa.

though the refuse company initially insisted otherwise, saying its lorry picked up just 11kg of material from the scene that night, last month Biffa discovered it had mis-recorded the data and the real weight was 116kg.

Corrie weighed about 85kg (just over 13 stone).

Police immediatel­y descended on the landfill site near Milton, where Biffa’s cargo ended up. they have been there ever since sorting through between 70 and 80 tonnes of rubbish per day.

Martin and trisha, whose home is many miles away in Cupar, Fife, quit work to follow the search — Martin was a deck supervisor on oil rigs — and traded in their Jeep for the Fiat camper van where they now live. the couple also sold his beloved Harley Davidson motorbike to pay bills.

‘I never thought I’d still be here after six months,’ he says.

‘People say not knowing can be the hardest thing and they’re right: if Corrie had got drunk and drowned in his own vomit, banged his head or got into a fight that went wrong, at least we’d know — but uncertaint­y destroys you.’

Yet the toll on Martin and trisha goes deeper still. For Corrie’s disappeara­nce has led to a deeply unpleasant falling out with Martin’s former wife Nicola.

It began in petty circumstan­ces, but quickly escalated, and Corrie’s brothers Darroch, 21, and Makeyan, 25, took their mother’s side. they no longer speak to Martin. ‘When terrible things happen, they say it brings people together, but this tore the family apart. I’m in pieces about it,’ says Martin.

‘I’ve not spoken to my boys in months. I feel as if I’ve lost all three sons, rather than just the one.

‘I also know that by speaking publicly about what happened, I may sacrifice the chance of ever speaking to my boys again. But things need to be said.’

During an interview with the Mail that spanned several hours this week, Martin raised a number of questions about the wisdom of his former wife and sons’ conduct and asked whether she, deep in grief, has been exploited by others.

Many of his questions concern what he says are inaccurate public statements about Corrie — not least about his relationsh­ip with his girlfriend April Oliver, a 21- year- old fitness instructor, who announced shortly after Christmas that she is pregnant with Corrie’s child.

Martin believes the public has been misled — and the police investigat­ion undermined.

‘In October, Nicola said Corrie was “very happily single” when he obviously wasn’t,’ says Martin.

‘He’d been seeing two people: April and a girl called Alison Hogg, who he had brought up to Scotland to meet the family. the very last word you’d use to describe Corrie is single. Why did Nicola say it?’

But there was obfuscatio­n, too. April made headlines in January when it emerged that she and Corrie shared a profile on a sex website called ‘fab swingers’.

Martin says this was a potentiall­y significan­t aspect because risky sexual behaviour might have explained Corrie’s disappeara­nce.

Yet Nicola, who had known about this since September, kept it hidden from the public for four months. He does not know why.

More recently, Nicola used a Facebook post to vigorously deny rumours that Corrie was suffering from depression when he vanished. Again, Martin says that was untrue.

‘Corrie was on anti-depressant­s. It was something he’d been dealing with for a while, quite openly, and the family knew. He wasn’t allowed on RAF exercises where they fired live rounds as a result. ‘Again, why did she say this?’ Martin also regarded Nicola’s repeated public criticisms of Suffolk police — whom she scathingly dubbed ‘incompeten­t’ in interviews — as unwarrante­d and unhelpful. He says detectives have run an ‘excellent’ investigat­ion of a ‘highly complex case’.

In fact, Martin says the behaviour of his former wife — a police liaison officer in Dunfermlin­e — has been the biggest single hurdle to the official police inquiry.

He explains that Nicola’s ‘ Find Corrie’ website, the epicentre of public discussion of the case, fails to tell potential witnesses to call Suffolk Police. Instead, it advises them to ring mobile phone lines that she controls.

‘that’s against every rule in the book,’ says Martin.

‘Nicola as a police officer ought to understand this, and I condemn it unreserved­ly.’

Furthermor­e, Martin has serious concerns about the £50,000-plus donated to a crowd-funding appeal and a lack of accountabi­lity.

While there is no suggestion the family have benefited personally, a portion has been funnelled to a private detective agency with links to Nicola’s brother. Martin is Pr i n te d

outraged by what he sees as the tacky commercial exploitati­on of Corrie and his plight.

This has seen Nicola allow an online gambling firm to use the Corrie appeal to tout for new customers and to endorse the sale by third parties of merchandis­e — from plastic wristbands to embroidere­d sweatshirt­s — bearing Corrie’s name.

Though the merchandis­e is supposedly sold in aid of charity via the Find Corrie Facebook page, Martin says there is ‘ no proper oversight’ to establish whether the money raised in this way actually goes to good causes.

‘To buy one of the Find Corrie wristbands, you have to transfer money to some bloke’s personal bank account,’ he says. ‘How can that be right?’

The final straw came a few days ago, when it was announced that Nicola, Darroch and Makeyan are planning to stage a summer pop event called Corrie’s Concert to raise money for charity.

‘ I just find the whole idea disgusting, in such terrible taste,’ says Martin.

‘We haven’t even found our boy yet. How can they even talk about doing something like this when police are looking for his body? Before we’ve even had a funeral?’

A once larger- than- life man whose confidence has been destroyed by his recent ordeal, Martin is uncomforta­ble in the spotlight and has rarely spoken publicly since Corrie disappeare­d.

He received no payment for this interview, saying he’s motivated only by a determinat­ion to correct myths in the public domain.

‘I am disgusted at the lies that have been fed to the Press and made on social media,’ he says.

He’s also upset by social media comments suggesting he was an ‘absent father’: ‘That is totally untrue. Because of our jobs, Corrie and I were away a lot, but I saw him in the summer, when he came to Scotland, and we often spoke.’

Their last contact was on September 16, Corrie’s birthday, when Martin texted to say he’d transferre­d cash to Corrie’s bank account as a present.

‘Corrie and I had our ups and downs. He was a lovely boy, but could be difficult, especially when he’d had a drink. But he’s my son and I will always love him.’

Martin’s fall-out with Nicola and his other two sons began on October 3, ten days after Corrie vanished, when he received a sudden phone call from Darroch. ‘He said: “Dad, switch on your television. We are going on live in ten minutes to do a Press conference,” ’ recalls Martin.

‘I was upset, because I’d not been asked to take part, and felt strongly that if there was going to be a Press conference, I should be there, too.

‘We’d agreed that if it happened, then we’d do it with everyone: me, my wife Trisha, Nicola, David [Nicola’s husband] and both boys. It felt important for us all to be involved.’

When Martin next saw Darroch, they argued. ‘It got heated, and I had to walk outside. He grabbed my hand and tried to stop me.

‘The last thing I said was: “I’ve lost one son. I don’t want to lose another two.”

‘From that point, they refused to see me or speak to me. I’ve had no other contact. The boys won’t meet. I’ve phoned them, messaged them, everything.’

In the five months that followed, the rift widened. Martin had no involvemen­t with the huge social media campaign that developed. He could only watch as Nicola and April repeatedly insisted in TV appearance­s that Corrie had no idea he was to become a father when he went missing.

‘I know that to be untrue,’ he tells me, ‘In fact, April’s pregnancy goes a long way to explaining Corrie’s state of mind when he vanished.’ Martin says he heard of April’s existence on Wednesday, September 28, two days after Corrie had been declared missing.

Martin and his wife Trisha met Nicola on that day at her home in Dunfermlin­e to talk through the developmen­ts. A friend took notes of the meeting.

‘Nicola had been paying Corrie’s phone bill, so seemed to have had access to his social media accounts,’ he says.

‘She told us about his sex life, that he was into swinging and dogging and stuff, because at that stage it was one of the things that might have been a reason for his disappeara­nce.

‘Nicola also told us about this girlfriend, April, who was pregnant, and who had told Corrie about it on September 18. It’s all there in my written notes, which are with Suffolk police.’


and April are understood to dispute this version of events, but did not respond to requests for comment.

The mystery surroundin­g Corrie’s plight soon attracted vast amounts of attention — and cash.

In December, Martin’s parents — Mary and Oliver McKeague, both 69 — made headlines by offering a ‘five-figure’ reward to anyone who could crack the case.

Two days later, Nicola announced a bigger reward of £50,000. It came from Suffolk businessma­n and horse-racing tipster Colin Davey, who runs a gambling website called TopThelot.com.

He also offered to donate money to Suffolk lowland Search and Rescue, a charity that conducted searches for Corrie — £2 for every member of the public who opened a gambling account with his firm.

In late January, two months after the ‘Find Corrie’ promotion was launched, the charity said it knew little about Top The lot’s appeal and had yet to receive any donations.

The firm is reported to have since sent the charity £5,000, though it’s unclear how this figure was calculated. Meanwhile, the £50,000 offer has since been withdrawn.

Top The lot’s parent company, Sovereign Investment­s, did not respond to a request for comment. Nor did the search and rescue charity. But Martin is ‘revolted’ that a gambling firm promoted itself via his missing son. AN

APPEAL via the JustGiving website quickly raised £53,100 to ‘ help find Corrie McKeague’, telling donors some of this cash would be spent on a private investigat­or to look into the case.

Some of the money was handed to a firm called McKenzie Intelligen­ce Services, described as an ‘elite team of specialist­s’ and run by ex-soldier Forbes McKenzie — a former work colleague of Nicola’s brother, Tony Wringe.

On its website, McKenzie Intelligen­ce says it is a ‘ global intelligen­ce’ firm working with blue chip companies on several continents.

However, Companies House tells a different story: it has £440 in the bank and a net worth of £153, according to its last published accounts, while its registered address consists of a desk in another company’s london office.

The engagement of McKenzie Intelligen­ce has drawn criticism from Tony Imossi, head of the Associatio­n of British Investigat­ors, the industry’s trade body.

‘Given public donations were being spent, and given the connection with Mr Wringe, the way McKenzie Intelligen­ce Services was selected is questionab­le,’ he says. Imossi adds it’s especially odd since the associatio­n approached Nicola last year offering to help in the search for Corrie for free, but didn’t receive a reply.

Martin McKeague says McKenzie Intelligen­ce ‘has been of no assistance whatsoever in the search for my son, and provided no new informatio­n to Suffolk police’.

It has, however, been paid £13,000 from the public donations.

Neither Wringe nor McKenzie Intelligen­ce responded to a request for comment. Corrie’s brothers Darroch and Makeyan also failed to respond to messages.

Maybe they don’t care what Martin thinks: Corrie’s Facebook page was edited recently and several posts removed.

Among the changes was that Martin was no longer identified as ‘Corrie’s father’.

For a man spending his days on the rubbish tip where his son’s body is expected to be found, it was, perhaps, the final insult.

 ??  ?? Grief-stricken: Corrie’s mum Nicola and girlfriend April
Grief-stricken: Corrie’s mum Nicola and girlfriend April
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 ??  ?? Proud dad: Martin with Corrie: He’s my son and I will always love him’
Proud dad: Martin with Corrie: He’s my son and I will always love him’

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