Police find Leah Croucher’s rucksack in house near last known sighting of the 19-year-old


Police have launched a murder investigation after finding a rucksack believed to have been owned by missing teenager Leah Croucher – who vanished in Milton Keynes over three and a half years ago.

Leah was last seen at her home in Milton Keynes, at 10pm on Valentine’s Day night. Her parents Claire and John reported her missing the next day.

Since Monday, police have been searching a four-bedroom detached property that has been rented out in Loxbeare Drive, in the Furzton area of the city.

A Thames Valley Police spokesperson said: ‘Following information received from a member of the public on Monday, relating to a property in Loxbeare Drive, Furzton, Milton Keynes, specialist officers and forensic teams attended the location.

‘As a result of an ongoing detailed forensic search of the property, a number of items have been located.

‘During the search we have found items, including a rucksack and personal possessions belonging to Leah Croucher, who was reported missing on 15 February 2019.

‘As a result of our findings, Thames Valley Police have now launched a murder investigation.

Leah Croucher, 19, vanished in Milton Keynes while walking to work on the morning of February 15, 2019. Thames Valley Police have spent two days searching a house close to where she went missing

Leah Croucher, 19, vanished in Milton Keynes while walking to work on the morning of February 15, 2019. Thames Valley Police have spent two days searching a house close to where she went missing

Police are searching a house in Loxbeare Drive, in the Furzton area of Milton Keynes, close to where Leah vanished

Police are searching a house in Loxbeare Drive, in the Furzton area of Milton Keynes, close to where Leah vanished

Personal items including a rucksack believed to have been owned by Leah have been recovered from the property

Personal items including a rucksack believed to have been owned by Leah have been recovered from the property

‘This is a complex and challenging scene, which we have been at since just after 6.30pm on Monday.

‘We will continue to be at the scene for a significant period of time.

‘A large-scale missing person investigation has been ongoing for the last three and a half years, with extensive searches and house-to-house enquiries.’

Head of Crime for Thames Valley Police, Detective Chief Superintendent Ian Hunter said: ‘Following a call to police on Monday, we attended an address and located items of concern within the property.

‘We are dealing with a very difficult scene but we can now confirm that we have discovered a number of items that are linked to Leah, and as such, we have now launched a murder investigation, led by our Major Crime Unit.

‘Leah’s family have been kept updated and continue to be supported by officers, and we are urging the public and media to think of her family and not to speculate further while this investigation is in the early stages.

‘We will provide further updates when we are able to do so.

‘There remains a scene-watch in place at the address while this investigation continues, and we are committed to ensuring that our enquiries at the scene are thorough.

‘During our search for Leah, we have committed hundreds of officers and staff to the search for Leah over the last three and a half years, reviewing 1,200 hours of CCTV and conducted more than 4,000 house-to-house inquiries and offered several rewards for information to lead us to Leah.

The last reported sighting of Leah Croucher was in Buzzacott Lane in the Furzton area of the city just after 8.15am on Friday, February 15, 2019

The last reported sighting of Leah Croucher was in Buzzacott Lane in the Furzton area of the city just after 8.15am on Friday, February 15, 2019

‘The call from the member of the public that we received on Monday was the first occasion that we were alerted to this address, and we thank them for contacting us immediately to report their concerns.

‘Our thoughts remain with Leah’s family and friends, and we will continue to offer them all the support that they need.’

There was a reported sighting of Leah was in Buzzacott Lane in Furzton area of the city just after 8.15am on Friday, February 15, 2019.

She was walking in the direction of Loxbeare Drive and Chaffron Way while on her way to work in the morning before she ‘effectively vanished into thin air’.

Despite a wide-scale investigation in which police visited 4,000 properties and reviewed 1,200 hours of CCTV, no trace of her has been found and no one has been arrested in connection with the case.

Police previously called the case ‘bewildering and frustrating’, and said they retained an ‘open mind’ but ‘the potential that Leah is no longer alive has to increase’. 

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Howard said ‘we’ve had no confirmed sightings of Leah’ since the time of her disappearance. 

Leah Croucher seen on CCTV. She was last seen on CCTV down Buzzacott Lane in Furzton, Buckinghamshire while on her way to work on the morning of February 15, 2019 before she 'vanished into thin air'

Leah Croucher seen on CCTV. She was last seen on CCTV down Buzzacott Lane in Furzton, Buckinghamshire while on her way to work on the morning of February 15, 2019 before she ‘vanished into thin air’

Leah, who was 19 years old at the time of her disappearance, was reported missing from Emerson Valley, Milton Keynes by her family on 15th February 2019. Pictured: The last known sighting of Leah on February 15

They last saw her at 10pm the day before, 14 February, St Valentine's Day. Pictured: The last known sighting of Leah on February 15

Leah, who was 19 years old at the time of her disappearance, was reported missing from Emerson Valley, Milton Keynes by her family on 15th February 2019. They last saw her at 10pm the day before, 14 February, St Valentine’s Day. Pictured: The last known sighting of Leah on February 15

One image from Furzton Lake, shows a figure of a person dressed in black, who may or may not have been Leah, on the day she disappeared

One image from Furzton Lake, shows a figure of a person dressed in black, who may or may not have been Leah, on the day she disappeared

Leah Croucher was last seen in Milton Keyens on February 15, 2019. Pictured are the old poster (left) and the new poster (right) that havee been released to try and find her

Leah Croucher was last seen in Milton Keyens on February 15, 2019. Pictured are the old poster (left) and the new poster (right) that havee been released to try and find her

Timeline of missing Leah Croucher’s disappearance 

February 14, 2019

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 behaviour that night was totally normal, say her parents.

February 15

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 grey 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.

February 17

Police issue a press release saying Leah is missing. 

February 19 

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.

September 25 

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 grey hoodie just near the water, like the one Leah was wearing.

October 9 

Police launch a major search at the Blue Lagoon. Nothing of any significance is found.

November 14-16 

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.

Leah, who was 19 years old at the time of her disappearance, was reported missing from Emerson Valley, Milton Keynes, by her family on February 15, 2019. They last saw her at 10pm the day before, February 14 – Valentine’s Day.

She was last seen on CCTV down Buzzacott Lane in Furzton, while on her way to work on the morning of February 15, before she ‘effectively vanished into thin air’. The last activity on her phone was just after 8.30am that day.

Despite a wide-scale investigation in which police visited 4,000 properties and reviewed 1,200 hours of CCTV, no trace of her has been found and no one has been arrested in connection with the case.

In February, Leah’s family issued an emotional statement to mark the third anniversary of her disappearance.

In a written statement, issued through Thames Valley Police, 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 John and Claire Croucher said.  

‘It is unimaginable to convince ourselves that this is not a lie we tell ourselves so that we get out of bed each day. Each day is torture.

‘It is inconceivable not to worry every second of every single day. Sleep feels an elusive character each night, waking each morning we never feel rested and refreshed.

‘Each time the phone rings or there is a knock at the front door, our hearts still leap in our chests.

‘That familiar surge of hope springing up in our throats. That familiar wave of despair that crashes over our very souls each time

‘It is not the police or Leah herself knocking at the door or calling on the phone.

‘Again, we ask for the public’s help. You have all been so wonderful so far, still helping us search every face in the streets to see if they are Leah, still sharing on social media, still reporting possible sightings to the police.’

The night before she went missing, Leah left her home in Milton Keynes between 6pm and 7.15pm. She told her mother Claire Croucher she was seeing a friend.

The police found out she never saw the friend and they do not know where she went or who she was with – or whether she met anyone that night.

Her parents last saw her when she went to bed, with her mother Claire previously saying it was ‘the last time I got to say goodnight’.

Last year Claire and her husband John Croucher said they feared someone may have taken Leah as they questioned why she would ‘just disappear’.

The search for Leah has seen officers visit more than 4,000 homes in Milton Keynes, while officers have deployed specialist search teams, drones and helicopters.

Marine units and dive teams have conducted searches of lakes across the town but police say they have found no items relating to the missing woman.

Since Leah went missing, her family have kept her name in the public eye with campaigns for information.

In April, DCI Howard said: ‘We remain absolutely committed to finding Leah and seeking answers for her family.’

The following month, an appeal for information about Leah’s whereabouts was featured on digital billboards across London.

Alongside the tragedy of Leah’s disappearance, Leah’s family also suffered the tragic death of her brother Haydon, who was found hanged in November 2019.

The 24-year-old hanged himself after telling a therapist he was finding it difficult to cope with his sister’s disappearance.

Haydon was brought to Milton Keynes hospital for assessment for admission by his therapist Chantelle Tillison. But there were no beds available and he was sent home. 

He was found hanging in his flat in Bletchley, Milton Keynes, nine months after Leah disappeared, by his mother Tracey Furness and sister Jade.

He was rushed to hospital where he died two days later on 16 November last year, Milton Keynes coroner’s court heard in 2020.

After his inquest, his mother Claire warned there was ‘still a lot to learn’ from her son’s suicide. 

In a statement issued through her solicitors Mrs Furness in 2020, she said: ‘The family considers the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust still have a lot to learn from the avoidable death of Haydon and others before him.’

The Trust said it had since changed its time-limited system to allow 24-hour access to Crisis Support, something the family praised.    

Meanwhile, Leah’s sister Jade Croucher, issued an appeal in July 2019, four months after her disappearance, for Leah to come home. 

She said; ‘It would be lovely if she messaged me on her birthday.

‘Every day I wake up with the hope that we will get a little bit of a breakthrough that Leah is safe and well.

‘I’m constantly checking my phone, but so far there has been nothing.’

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details.   



Source link

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Get Singles Here
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x