Royal Air Force gunner Corrie McKeague is believed to have died after he climbed into an industrial waste bin while drunk on a night out, before it was emptied into a lorry, an inquest has heard.
No trace of the serviceman, aged 23 at the time of his disappearance, has been found since he vanished in the early hours of 24 September 2016 in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
CCTV footage was released following his disappearance and ex-Special Forces investigators were hired to try to help locate Corrie McKeague, before the case was handed over to cold case detectives in 2018.
Suffolk’s senior coroner Nigel Parsley said Corrie McKeague "died in the Suffolk jurisdiction in September 2016", describing the serviceman's death as "tragic".
The inquest hearing in Ipswich was opened and adjourned on 13 November.
Marina Ericson, Temporary Chief Superintendent of Suffolk Police, told the hearing Corrie had climbed into the bin, which was emptied into a waste lorry where he died.
She added that the RAF gunner drove into Bury St Edmunds on the evening of 23 September 2016 and met up with military colleagues to drink and socialise.
"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."
Corrie McKeague was last seen alive on CCTV footage at 03:25 on 24 September 2016, entering an area in Brentgovel Street, behind a Superdrug and a Greggs shop where there are several industrial waste bins.
Ms Ericson said a Biffa waste lorry emptied the Greggs bin at 04:19, with the bin recorded as weighing 116kg (18st 3lb).
"This was around 70kg to 80kg (12st 8lb) more than its average weight," she said.
Ms Ericson also added that Mr McKeague’s mobile phone provided a signal from this point and "mapped the movements of the waste lorry to the Barton Mills roundabout".
"At that point, the mobile service provider lost the signal," she said.
The opening inquest hearing follows an application being granted at the request of his family.
Corrie McKeague's mother, Nicola Urquhart, listened to proceedings remotely, while his father, Martin McKeague, and wife Trisha, attended the hearing in person.
Martin McKeague said following Friday's hearing: "This will put the truth out to the public.
"There's no mystery. We're not finding out any new news here."
He stated his belief that his son went into the bin, adding: "The facts and evidence that we've been presented with tell us that's what happened to him."
A pre-inquest review hearing will be now be held in February 2021, with the full inquest itself following later in the year.