A young woman who met RAF serviceman Corrie McKeague on a night out has told an inquest that he mentioned walking home from Bury St Edmunds to his base.
Mr McKeague, of Dunfermline, Fife, was 23 when he vanished in the early hours of September 24, 2016, after a night out in the Suffolk town.
The airman was stationed at RAF Honington, more than eight miles from Bury St Edmunds.
No trace of him has been found since a last sighting on CCTV at 3.25am entering a service area behind a Greggs store, and Suffolk Police believe he climbed into a bin which was then tipped into a waste lorry.
Alicia Gallagher, giving evidence to an inquest in Ipswich by video link, said she first met Mr McKeague on a night out in Bury St Edmunds in December 2015.
She said she was with her sister at Flex nightclub and saw a number of people who were in “smart dress formal wear, like tuxes”.
“One of them was on his own,” she said.
“We were just out dancing really and he stayed with us for a couple of hours until closing.”
She continued: “He was actually just really friendly. He wasn’t flirty. He was just really sociable – it was like he was looking for people to chat to.”
She said that when they left, at around 4.30am, she was taking a taxi with her sister in a different direction from Mr McKeague.
“My sister was concerned he wasn’t going home with anyone,” said Ms Gallagher.
“We offered him some money for a taxi – he did mention a base but he didn’t say which base it was.
“He said he walked… one time which my sister wasn’t happy with. In the end I think he just wandered off.”
She continued: “He said he had done it before, which I remember as we talked about it in the taxi home and said ‘that’s so far’.
“It’s something I remember from that night as I thought ‘that’s so far, I wouldn’t do that’, but then I’m not a young, fit male either.
“It was a striking point that he mentioned walking home, that he had done it before.”
She said she saw Mr McKeague a second time on September 23, 2016, in Wetherspoons in Bury St Edmunds.
She said she was with a friend for a “casual drink” when Mr McKeague, who did not recognise her, pulled up a chair.
Ms Gallagher said he was “very friendly, very confident”.
She said when she recognised him she found a video of him with her sister on the previous night out, showed it to him, then sent her sister a Snapchat video of Mr McKeague saying hello.
She said he left after a few minutes.
Aaron Figge, who worked in the Spar shop at RAF Honington, said in a statement that Mr McKeague bought a bottle of vodka from the shop on Friday, September 23, 2016.
He said Mr McKeague was among his regular customers who he “became friendly with”, describing him as “a very happy, chatty person who was always well-presented and seemed a nice guy”.
“I was aware he lived on the base as he was a regular customer,” he said.
“He asked to see various bottles of vodka and while choosing he chatted to me,” said Mr Figge.
“He stated he had not had a good day at work – this was not usual for Corrie as he was usually so upbeat.”
He said he believed Mr McKeague bought a 70cl bottle of Spar vodka, “the cheapest bottle in the store”, for between £6 and £10, and also bought cigarettes, paying by card.
“We said bye to each other and he left the shop,” he said.
The inquest, due to last for up to four weeks, continues.