The heartbroken father of Corrie McKeague has told of his devastation that he has never met the RAF gunner’s daughtee five years after his son vanished on a night out.
Devastated Martin McKeague, who was at the inquest into his son’s death last week, welcomed the ruling that Corrie, 23, was crushed to death on the day he disappeared in September 2016 after climbing into a bin that was later tipped into a waste lorry.
Corrie’s girlfriend April Oliver gave birth to the couple’s daughter, Ellie-Louise Corrie Oliver, eight months after the airman was last seen.
His dad has now revealed a bitter family fallout has denied him contact with his granddaughter.
He fears he will never get to meet the youngster and says not knowing his late son’s daughter – who was born on Father’s Day in 2017 and turns five in June – fills him with added grief.
Martin, 53, of Cupar, Fife, said: “The pain of losing Corrie will never change. Ellie is the only bit of Corrie we have left. It breaks my heart not to be able to see her – of course it does.
“I’ve had no contact with April or with Corrie’s daughter. I know I will probably never get to see little Ellie.
“My only hope is that when she comes of an age to make her own decisions she reaches out to me and I will reach back with open arms.”
Martin’s wife Trisha said: “We only know what Ellie looks like because we’ve seen her photograph in the papers. She’s beautiful.
“Martin finds it too difficult to even look at pictures of her – it upsets him too much. He’s asked me, ‘Does she look like Corrie?’ and I’ve said yes. She does look like Corrie. She’s gorgeous.”
Corrie, of Dunfermline, disappeared in the early hours of September 24, 2016, after being ejected from a nightclub in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
CCTV footage captured the airman, who had drunk a significant amount of alcohol, entering a horseshoe-shaped service area behind a row of shops but he was never seen again.
Waste firm Biffa later revealed a bin they collected that morning from the service area recorded a weight of 116kg (18st 3lb) – much heavier than the weight of bins normally collected and than the 11kg (1st 10lb) they initially told police they had picked up.
Police investigations also found the movement of Corrie’s mobile phone after he disappeared mirrored the movement of the waste lorry with the unusually heavy load.
Despite a 27-week search of a 120-acre landfill site in Milton, Cambridgeshire, where the contents of the bin lorry ended up, his body was never found.
A two-week inquest held earlier this month at Suffolk Coroner’s Court heard Corrie, who was stationed at RAFHonington, had previously slept in a bin and also under bin bags on past nights out.
The inquest jurors ruled he died after climbing into the commercial waste bin, which was collected a short time later and its contents crushed in the back of the bin lorry.
Martin, who attended the inquest with Trisha, sat just yards from his granddaughter’s mother as well as his other two sons, Makeyan, 31, and Darroch, 26, and their mother, his ex-wife Nicola Urquhart, during the hearing.
He said there was no contact between the deeply divided family.
Martin has previously revealed to the Sunday Mail that Makeyan and Darroch cut him from their lives after heated rows in the stressful days following Corrie’s disappearance.
He says he was denied any relationship with April after contradicting statements given by both Nicola and April herself that Corrie didn’t know she was pregnant when he vanished.
He claims fitness instructor April, who had met Corrie five months earlier on a dating website, revealed the pregnancy to the airman during a trip to London days before he went missing.
Did you know you can keep up to date with the latest news by signing up to our daily newsletter?
We send a morning and lunchtime newsletter covering the latest headlines every day.
We also send coronavirus updates at 5pm on weekdays, and a round up of the week’s must-read stories on Sunday afternoons.
Signing up is simple, easy and free.
You can pop your email address into the sign up box above, hit Subscribe and we’ll do the rest.
Alternatively, you can sign up and check out the rest of our newsletters here.
Martin said: “Corrie did know about the baby. There is nothing wrong with saying he knew about the baby. I have never understood why anyone has said otherwise.
“I wouldn’t lie and say Corrie didn’t know she was pregnant. He did.
“We will likely never be allowed to see Corrie’s daughter, our grandchild, because we refused to lie.
“My sons Darroch and Makeyan still have no contact with me or any of the McKeague side of the family.
“Both of the boys are married now and none of us (the McKeagues) were at the weddings. Not their grandparents, not their aunts or their uncles.
“They have cut everybody off from our side of the family, even Trisha’s daughters who they had been close to.
“We didn’t even know Makeyan was getting married until someone told us after they saw it in the paper.”
Makeyan married Cloe Rawlinson in North Queensferry, Fife, last August. Ellie-Louise was a flower girl at the ceremony.
In an online post at the time, Corrie’s mum Nicola said: “Corrie, as always, is never far from our thoughts. His little girl Ellie was the perfect flower girl.”
Darroch married Leah McElrea in July 2018 after meeting the search volunteer while helping to look for Corrie.
Leah said: “I thank Corrie every single day for bringing us together but if I could give Darroch his brother back and I would not have my happiness, I would give that to him.”
Martin, who worked in Malta as a deck supervisor in the oil industry before Corrie’s death, said the inquest hadn’t revealed any new information about what had happened to his son but said the ruling had been welcomed.
He said: “It only took the jury three hours and 42 minutes to come to the conclusion they did after the facts and evidence were presented to them.
“I have fought for five-and-a-half years for the truth to be heard. Now it’s all out in the open for everyone to see and hear.”
He added: “These last years have been very difficult. I’ve lost my job and house as a result of everything that’s happened – searching for my son and the toll it’s taken on the health of both Trisha and I.
“I do feel like a weight has been lifted from our shoulders since the inquest gave its findings. We will never get over losing Corrie but it feels like now we can start to grieve.”