Human remains found in a loft in Milton Keynes have been formally identified as Leah Croucher, three years after the 19-year-old went missing.
Thames Valley police said that a post-mortem, conducted last week, has been inconclusive as to the cause of Leah’s death and investigations continue.
The remains and Leah’s belongings, including a rucksack, were found in the loft of a property on Loxbeare Drive, in Furzton, Milton Keynes, on October 10, sparking a murder investigation.
Thames Valley Police announced on October 14 that a deceased man, 49-year-old Neil Maxwell, was the prime suspect in their investigation.
Leah Croucher, 19, (pictured) was last seen on CCTV on her way to her job on February 15, 2019, but never made it to work
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Superintendent Kevin Brown, the Head of the Major Crime Unit, said: ‘The thoughts of all of us at Thames Valley Police remain and will always be with Leah’s family and friends.
‘The entirety of our investigation keeps them uppermost in our minds, and they continue to be supported by specially trained officers and updated on every development.
‘After a difficult process, we are now in a position to formally confirm that the body found in Loxbeare Drive last week is that of Leah.
‘The grief and shock of Leah’s family and friends is unimaginable, and they have shown enormous courage, patience and dignity over the last three years and eight months while our search for Leah continued.
‘They have always been supportive of Thames Valley Police, both during our extensive missing person investigation and this subsequent investigation into Leah’s murder.
‘We ask again, on their behalf, to please respect their privacy at what is such a traumatic and upsetting time for them all.
‘Our investigations into Leah’s murder will leave no stone unturned, and we owe it to Leah’s family to ensure we find the truth.
‘We are absolutely committed to doing so, to allow them to gain an understanding of what happened to Leah.’
The 19-year-old was last seen on CCTV on her way to her job on February 15, 2019, but never made it to work.
Last Monday, human remains were found in the loft of a property at Loxbeare Drive in Furzton, Milton Keynes along with Leah’s rucksack and other personal possessions.
Neil Maxwell took his own life two months after Leah’s disappearance and has been named as the prime suspect in the police investigation
Human remains were found in the loft of a property at Loxbeare Drive in Furzton, Milton Keynes (pictured) along with Leah’s rucksack and other personal possessions
Maxwell, who had a string of past convictions for sexual offenses including rape and was wanted by police when Leah went missing in connection with an attack in Newport, Buckinghamshire, was working as a handyman in the house on Loxbeare Drive in February 2019.
At the time, he was the only person believed to have had a key.
Maxwell was on the sex offender’s register having been convicted of multiple offenses, including a teenager aged 13 to 15.
In April 2019, months after Leah’s disappearance, Maxwell hanged himself in Campbell Park, Milton Keynes.
Police have previously admitted Maxwell, 49, had evaded arrest 18 times while on the run from 2018 to 2019.
Detective Chief Superintendent Ian Hunter said police were unaware of any potential links between Maxwell and Leah until a maintenance worker alerted police on Monday to a suspicious object in a loft of the property on Loxbeare Drive.
Despite the number of times Maxwell evaded police, last week Leah’s family released a statement at a press conference on Friday saying they believe Thames Valley Police ‘could not have done anything differently.’
The statement said: ‘We would like to take this opportunity to thank Thames Valley Police for all their efforts over the past three years and eight months.
‘We believe that they could not have done anything differently, they have always approached every conversation with dignity and compassion.
‘As a family, we ask that everyone respects our privacy as well as our immediate family, at what is one of the most difficult times of our lives.’
A bunch of flowers were left at the scene by Leah’s parents, with a heartbreaking note to ‘our darling Leah’
People have laid tributes and flowers outside the house where Leah’s remains were found this week
The local community, including Leah’s family have laid tributes to the missing teenager outside the property where her remains were found.
Last Thursday, an undertaker carried a bouquet of flowers as he accompanied the parents to a makeshift memorial at the front of the house which is at the center of the police investigation.
A note left with the flowers read: ‘To our darling Leah. Our darkest fears have come true, we only need to be apart a little longer now.
‘We have so missed you for so long already. The future looks so bleak now. We know we will never see your smile or hear your laughter again. We will cherish your memories forever. We love you, Mum and Dad’.
Another note, by Leah’s elder sister Jade, read: ‘To my beautiful sister Leah, my heart has broken, my mind racing with thoughts and my body numb. How can a life as beautiful as yours come to an end in such a tragic way.
‘I have loved you from your very first breath and I will love you until my last. There has never been a moment when you were not in my thoughts and there will never be.
‘My only comfort is that you and Hayden are together in heaven. All my love forever your big sister Jade and nephew Reggie.’
Hayden, Leah’s brother, tragically took his own life after being so tormented by the loss of his sister. He was discovered by his mother and sister Jade.
If you are affected by the issues raised in this article, you can contact the Samaritans for free and completely anonymously on 116 123.
Timeline of Leah Croucher’s disappearance
Prime suspect Neil Maxwell is reported to Bedfordshire Police for a sexual assault in Newport Pagnell.
8am: Leah, 19, sets off for work as normal to her admin job with finance company in Milton Keynes.
5.45pm, Leah walks home from work. The location settings on her Samsung phone were switched off in the Furzton Lake area.
6pm, Leah arrives home from work. She changes into tracksuit bottoms and a long-sleeved top. She tells her mum she is going to visit a friend.
7.15pm, Leah arrives home again. Her behavior that night was totally normal, say her parents.
8am: Leah gets up and leaves for work. She sets off on her normal route, wearing a black coat, skinny black jeans, black Converse high top shoes and carrying a small black rucksack. Underneath her coat she wears a distinctive gray hoodie.
8.13am: CCTV footage shows her walking along Buzzacott Lane in Furzton. That was the last confirmed sighting of Leah.
8.34am: Leah’s mobile phone is switched off.
9am: Leah fails to arrive at work.
9.30am – 11.15am: Three different witnesses report seeing a girl matching Leah’s description walking by Furzton Lake. She was looking ‘visibly upset’ and crying while talking on the phone. Police have never been able to say definitely that this was Leah.
6pm: Leah fails to return home. She is reported missing.
Police issue a press release saying Leah is missing.
Police release the CCTV footage of Leah. They are becoming ‘increasingly concerned’ for her welfare. Her phone is switched off and cannot be traced and her bank account has not been touched.
In the following weeks divers scour Furzton Lake and fingertip searches are carried out. Leah’s family and friends put posters up appealing for information.
A public appeal is issued to find Maxwell.
The convicted sex offender is found dead.
BBC’s Crimewatch Roadshow re-enacts Leah’s disappearance and appeals for information. It shows the clothing Leah was wearing on the day she vanished.
Viewer contacts the show saying she and remembers walking at the Blue Lagoon lake in Bletchley, Milton Keynes in February and seeing a gray hoodie just near the water, like the one Leah was wearing.
Police launch a major search at the Blue Lagoon. Nothing of any significance is found.
Leah’s brother Haydon Croucher killed himself in his flat in Bletchley, Milton Keynes, and was found by his mother and sister.
February 14, 2020
Leah’s parents Claire and John Croucher issue a fresh appeal at a media conference at Milton Keynes Police Station a year after her disappearance.
February 15, 2021
Her family issue a statement appealing for help to find her on the second anniversary of her disappearance.
In an emotional statement they said: ‘It’s now been two years since our beautiful, wonderful daughter Leah, left for work and vanished without a trace. Missing. Gone.
‘To say they have been a hard two years is an understatement. They have been the longest and toughest two years of our lives.’
February 15, 2022
Police release a new image of a person dressed in black seen at Furzton Lake to mark the third year of her disappearance.
In a written statement Leah’s family said each day ‘feels like an eternity of pain and despair’, but said they remained hopeful she would one day be found.
‘It is harder each day to tell ourselves that today will be the day that we get answers, today we find out what happened three years ago,’ her parents said.
Monday October 10, 2022
Remains, believed to be Leah, are found in a house in Loxbeare Drive, Milton Keynes, which she passed every day on her way to work. Her belongings were found inside.
Friday October 14
At a press conference, police name Neil Maxwell as the prime suspect in Leah’s murder.
Friday October 21
Police confirm that the human remains found in a loft in Milton Keynes have been formally identified as missing teenager Leah Croucher.
A Home Office post-mortem has been inconclusive as to the cause of Leah’s death and investigations are continuing.