An inquest has heard how Corrie McKeague, missing since 2016, is believed to have died after climbing into an industrial waste bin while drunk on a night out.
It is thought the bin was then emptied into a lorry, where Mr McKeague eventually died, though his body has never been discovered.
No trace of him has since been found but Suffolk’s senior coroner, Nigel Parsley, declared that Mr McKeague “died in the Suffolk jurisdiction in September 2016”.
The hearing in Ipswich was opened and adjourned on Friday.
Marina Ericson, temporary chief superintendent of Suffolk Police, told the hearing Mr McKeague drove into Bury St Edmunds on the evening of 23 September 2016 and met up with RAF colleagues to go drinking and socialising.
“Witnesses state that Corrie consumed so much alcohol through the evening that he became very drunk and was asked to leave Flex nightclub,” she said.
“Witnesses also described him as being happy and friendly throughout the evening.”
Mr McKeague was last seen alive at 3.25am, on CCTV footage, entering a horseshoe-shaped area in Brentgovel Street, behind a Superdrug and a Greggs shop, where there are several industrial waste bins.
Ms Ericson told the inquest that a Biffa waste lorry emptied the Greggs bin at 4.19am, and the bin was recorded as weighing 116kg (18st 3lb) – “around 70kg to 80kg more than its average weight,” she said.
The missing man’s mobile phone is then said to have connected to the internet, allowing officers to follow a signal which mapped the movements of the waste lorry to the Barton Mills roundabout.
“At that point, the mobile service provider lost the signal,” Ms Ericson said.
Mr McKeague was later reported missing at 3.42pm on Monday 26 September by colleagues at RAF Honington.
“Despite an extensive police-led investigation and search, there has been no proof of life since the last sighting of Corrie at 3.25am on Saturday 24 September 2016,” Mr Ercison told the inquest.
“It is believed that Corrie, having climbed into the Greggs waste bin located in the area of the horseshoe in Brentgovel Street, was in the bin when it was emptied into the Biffa waste lorry and this is where he subsequently died.”
Mr McKeague’s mother, Nicola Urquhart, listened to proceedings remotely, while his father, Martin McKeague, and his wife, Trisha, attended the hearing in person.
Ms Urquhart previously said she had asked for an inquest for her son and was “extremely hopeful that this will give us answers”.
After the hearing on Friday morning, Martin McKeague said: “The facts and evidence that we’ve been presented with tell us that’s what happened to him.”
Upon hearing all the available evidence in the case, the coroner confirmed a further inquest into “Corrie’s tragic death” would be opened.
A pre-inquest review has been set to take place on 5 February, where considerations will be given to witnesses and the length and date of the full inquest hearing.
Additional reporting by PA