Heartbroken community hold service for Leah Croucher after police ‘found 19-year-old teenager’s remains’ at house

  • Service held in Furzton, Milton Keynes, from where Leah Croucher went missing
  • The 19-year-old was last seen on CCTV on her way to work on February 15, 2019 
  • Neil Maxwell named by Thames Valley Police as their prime suspect on Friday 
  • The convicted paedophile killed himself two months after Leah’s disappearance
  • Human remains, thought to Leah, were found at a house in Furzton on Monday

A memorial service has been held tonight for Leah Croucher after police on Friday named a prime suspect in their investigation into the 19-year-old’s disappearance.

The community in Furzton, Milton Keynes, from where Leah went missing in February 2019, were invited to ‘come together, to reflect, to pray and to light a candle’ at the Servant King Church and Ridgeway Community Centre this evening.

It comes after Thames Valley Police announced on Friday that a dead man, Neil Maxwell, was the prime suspect in their investigation.

Maxwell, who has been described by an ex-girlfriend as a ‘wrong ‘un’ with a ‘sinister character’, killed himself two months after Leah’s disappearance.

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.

On 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.

A service in memory of Leah Croucher took place this evening, after police on Friday named a prime suspect in their investigation into the 19-year-old’s disappearance

The community in Furzton, Milton Keynes, from where Leah went missing in February 2019, were invited to ‘come together, to reflect, to pray and to light a candle’ at the Servant King Church and Ridgeway Community Centre this evening

Maxwell, who had a string of past convictions for sexual offences 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. 

Police are investigating whether Maxwell kept Leah as a prisoner in the house, possibly for weeks. At the time, he was the only person believed to have had a key.

He was on the sex offender’s register having been convicted of multiple offences, including a teenager aged 13 to 15.

Police admitted Maxwell, 49, had evaded arrest 18 times while on the run from 2018 to 2019.

A former girlfriend has described Maxwell as controlling and said he groomed her and took advantage of her.

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

Neil Maxwell took his own life two months after Leah’s disappearance and has been named as the prime suspect in the police investigation

She told the Mirror: ‘I always knew he was a wrong ‘un.

‘He was well known in the area for trying to pin down girls and force himself on them… Eventually everyone kept away from him.

‘He was a deeply sinister character. It’s horrible that he did this to Leah but, to be honest, I’m not surprised in the slightest.’

Matthew Barber, Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner, has asked the force’s Chief Constable to conduct an investigation into the handling of Leah’s disappearance to determine if an inquiry is needed.

‘Given the time that has passed questions have inevitably been raised about the earlier investigation and there is an understandable desire for more information,’ he said.

‘None of the information I have received so far leads me to conclude that there were shortcomings in the earlier missing persons investigation. Nevertheless I have requested that the Chief Constable presents me with a review of the case in order to determine if any further inquiry is required.

‘If mistakes have been made I will ensure a thorough review of the missing persons investigation, but I must stress that this will be evidence-led and so far I have seen nothing to suggest any reasonable lines of enquiry were missed.’

On Monday 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 had previously been in prison for raping a teenage girl in 2009, for which he was handed a four-and-a-half year sentence.

Maxwell, then aged 48, admitted committing a sexual assault on a woman in Milton Keynes in February 2018 and was sentenced to 200-hours of unpaid work and made to pay £85 court costs and £1,000 compensation. He was also placed on the sex offender’s register for five years.

The pervert went on to strike again just nine months later. He was on the run for that offence at the time of Leah’s disappearance.

Detective Chief Superintendent Ian Hunter said yesterday formal identification of the body has not yet taken place, but they do believe it is Leah.

He 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.

Officers continue to guard the house and its surroundings as forensics teams are expected to continue working on the scene for several weeks

A bunch of flowers were left at the scene by Leah’s parents, with a heartbreaking note to ‘our darling Leah’

A Home Office pathologist is carrying out a post-mortem examination to try and determine a cause of death.

Despite the number of times Maxwell evaded police, 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.’

This was the final image of Leah ever captured before she disappeared and failed to show up to work

On Thursday night Leah’s family arrived to tearfully lay tributes to a beloved daughter and sister. 

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 centre 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’.

Various posters were released to try and find the teenager after she went missing in February 2019

People continued to lay tributes today outside the house where remains were found this week

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 never will 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 


November 29

 Prime suspect Neil Maxwell is reported to Bedfordshire Police for a sexual assault in Newport Pagnell.


February 14 

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.

April 4

A public appeal is issued to find Maxwell. 

April 20 

The convicted sex offender is found dead.  

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.

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.  

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