Parents of missing woman condemn ‘vicious rumour and speculation’

The parents of Leah Croucher criticised ‘hurtful’ and ‘upsetting’ claims on social media on the third anniversary of her disappearance.

Catherine Lough
Tuesday 15 February 2022 13:54 GMT
Leah Croucher (Thames Valley Police/PA)
Leah Croucher (Thames Valley Police/PA)

The family of a missing young woman have condemned “upsetting” and “hurtful” claims made about her disappearance on social media on the third anniversary of the day she went missing.

The parents of Leah Croucher released a statement on Tuesday, the third anniversary of her disappearance in Milton Keynes.

Leah Croucher (right) with her sister Jade. The parents of the missing woman criticised ‘hurtful’ and ‘vicious’ claims made about her on social media (Thames Valley Police/PA)
Leah Croucher (right) with her sister Jade. The parents of the missing woman criticised ‘hurtful’ and ‘vicious’ claims made about her on social media (Thames Valley Police/PA) (PA Media)

The police have released a new CCTV image which may be of Leah from Fuzton Lake, showing a figure dressed in black.

An image of a figure at Furzton Lake released by Thames Valley Police. Officers are keen to identify the person in the image.
An image of a figure at Furzton Lake released by Thames Valley Police. Officers are keen to identify the person in the image.

Senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Howard, said: “The image we are releasing today is not of a high quality, but I am hoping that somebody will recognise themselves as being in this picture.”

“I am keen to hear from the group of people in this image; it may be that you regularly walk in this area and will recognise yourselves.

“I would also like to hear from the person in the image walking her dog,” he added.

“If you have not already got in touch with the police, I would urge you to do so, as you may have a vital piece of information that would be key to this investigation.”

Police released an image of a woman walking her dog who it is believed was near Furtzon Lake on the morning Leah disappeared.

An image of a dog walker from CCTV released by Thames Valley Police.
An image of a dog walker from CCTV released by Thames Valley Police.

Leah Croucher, 19, was last seen on CCTV in Buzzacott Lane in Furzton, Milton Keynes, just after 8.15am on Friday February 15 in 2019, walking in the direction of Loxbeare Drive and Chaffron Way.

At the time her parents, Claire and John Croucher, said that her disappearance was “highly unusual” and that it was “unbelievable” that she had not tried to contact family and friends.

On Tuesday, Mr and Mrs Croucher spoke of their “three long, desolate years” without their “beautiful and wonderful daughter”.

“We still have no answers as to why,” they said of her disappearance.

“No clues as to what happened. No idea as to where or how she is.”

Miss Croucher’s parents said that it was “impossible to stay positive after all this time” and that “each day feels like an eternity of pain and despair”.

Her family spoke out against “vicious rumour and speculation” shared about their daughter on social media.

“Our family read everything that is written about Leah, both in the press and on social media,” her parents said.

“We are aware of the fake profiles that have been made claiming that Leah was pregnant and has run away, aware of the speculation that she is buried on farmland on Eaton Bray, aware that people are saying that she ran after married, older Muslim men as she had a thing for them,” they said.

“We find this upsetting, hurtful and disrespectful.

“None of this is true, all of it is vicious rumour and speculation,” they said.

They added that they would “appreciate that if people have nothing pleasant to say, that they say nothing at all” and that Leah “has done nothing to deserve this and neither have her family who are forced to tolerate this vile behaviour”.

Miss Croucher’s family last saw her in Quantock Crescent, Emerson Valley, Milton Keynes, at around 10pm on Thursday February 14, and she was reported missing to police the following day.

Chief Inspector Neil Kentish said Miss Croucher had disappeared while she was walking to work.

Miss Croucher is described as white and slim, with below shoulder-length brown hair, and she sometimes wears glasses.

She is described by family as “very quiet” and “not really an outgoing type of person”, preferring to read fantasy fiction or watch DVDs in her room to nights-out at the pub.

She  had competed internationally in taekwondo but her father said “she is not a fighter”.

She was last seen dressed in a black coat, skinny black jeans and black Converse high top shoes, and was carrying a small black rucksack.

In April 2019, two witnesses described seeing a young woman matching Miss Croucher’s description looking “visibly angry, upset and crying” near Furzton Lake between 9.30 and 11.15am on the day of her disappearance, but police have been unable to confirm it was the missing teenager.

An anonymous donor offered a £5,000 reward in March 2019 to encourage anyone with information to come forward, which was later doubled to £10,000.

The search has involved specialist police search teams, the mounted section, police dogs, the marine unit and the National Police Air Service.

Police have visited more than 4,000 homes and interviewed 100 potential witnesses as part of their investigations but say they have found no trace of her.

A month before her 20th birthday, her sister Jade urged anyone with information to “do the right thing” and go to the police.

Police also searched the Blue Lagoon lake area in the south of Milton Keynes after a member of the public reported seeing a grey hooded top in the area which officers thought could be linked to Miss Croucher, but they found nothing linking the missing teenager to the area.

The family was struck by further tragedy when Miss Croucher’s brother, Haydon Croucher, died at the age of 24 in November 2019.

His mother said he had found the disappearance of his sister “very difficult”.

John Croucher said at the time that “to say our hearts and minds are broken is an understatement”.

On Tuesday, John and Claire Croucher urged the public to search their phones for pictures taken on the evening of February 2 2019 outside the Jury’s Inn/Travel Lodge, as well as on the morning of February 15 2019 in the Furzton area.

“Search your memories to see if you can remember one thing that may help the police in their search,” they said.

“Please contact the police with anything you know, even if it seems small and insignificant.

“You are our only hope, you always have been.”

Mr Howard said on Tuesday that he was “particularly keen” to speak to the individual dressed in black in the CCTV images, which were taken at 10.51 am on the morning of Miss Croucher’s disappearance.

Mr Howard said he was aware of another image being circulated online showing a person sighted in a barn at a property in Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire, but said he could “categorically rule out that this is Leah in the image”.

He added that police were aware that Miss Croucher had left her home in Emerson Valley on the evening before her disappearance between approximately 6 and 7.15pm.

“We don’t know where Leah went during that period and would ask people to think back to that evening in case they were in that area and saw or spoke to Leah. Where was she? Was she with anybody? What was she doing?” he said.

“It is three years since Leah went missing, but the fact that we are seeking information about her movements on Valentine’s Day and February 15, which was the last day before half-term, means that hopefully these are dates that people can more readily recall.”

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