Officers investigating the murder of Leah Croucher in Milton Keynes have today confirmed that her body has been formally identified. It comes after human remains, believed to be of the teenager, were discovered in a property in Milton Keynes.
A Home Office post-mortem, which was conducted last week, was inconclusive as to the cause of Leah’s death, Thames Valley Police said in a statement. Investigations are ongoing.
A murder investigation was launched last week following the discovery of Leah in the attic of 2 Loxbeare Drive, Furzton, Milton Keynes.
A number of items belonging to Leah were found in a backpack next to her body.
The 19-year-old girl had last been seen on February 15, 2019, in CCTV footage of Buzzacott Lane, Furzton, an area of Milton Keynes. The day before had been the last time Leah was seen alive by her parents, at her family home at around 10pm.
It was only on October 10 this year that police received a report from someone who had been doing some work to the house and grew concerned about some of the items inside.
On October 12, Thames Valley Police launched a murder investigation, and the following day Leah’s parents, John and Claire, visit the house where police found human remains, and leave a handwritten message nearby reading “our darkest fears have come true”.
Detective Superintendent Kevin Brown, head of the force’s Major Crime Unit, said today: “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.”
He added: “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.”
Last Saturday, Thames Valley Police named convicted sex offender and fugitive Neil Maxwell as their prime suspect in the case.
Maxwell – who was imprisoned in 2009 for the rape of a different teenage girl – took his own life in 2019, a few months after Leah’s disappearance, while on the run from the police over separate allegations.
He is believed to be the only person with keys to the property in which the remains were found.
Maxwell pleaded guilty to raping a woman in her late teens and was jailed for four and a half years.
In a press conference at the time, police revealed that they had been actively pursuing Maxwell over an alleged sex attack in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire in 2018 in a nationwide manhunt.
Maxwell was said to have used an alias, changed his cars and used burner phones to avoid arrest. He was found dead on April 20, 2019.
Det Chief Supt Ian Hunter, of Thames Valley Police, said that Maxwell had been employed by the owner of the property in Milton Keynes to carry out some maintenance work, and had keys to the house from November 2018. The owner is believed to live abroad.
He said that an attempt to arrest Maxwell in connection with the sexual assault in Newport Pagnell the day after it occurred in Milton Keynes, but he was not present.
They later established he was at an “unknown location” in Scotland at one point, and “further arrest attempts were continually made throughout the UK at various different addresses”.
DCS Hunter added: “Maxwell knew he was wanted in connection with the sexual assault and was travelling across the UK and making concerted efforts to evade arrest, including using false names and changing his mobile phone and vehicles. He is likely to have known that he would be returning to prison if he was arrested and convicted.”
However, he noted: “Whilst Maxwell has been nominated as a suspect, this does not mean he is guilty of any offence.
“We will keep an open mind, and our detailed investigation will seek to gather sufficient evidence to establish the truth. This may or may not implicate or exonerate Maxwell or any other persons from the investigation.”