Leah Croucher: Reward to find missing woman doubles to £20,000 two years after 21-year-old vanished

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The reward for information to find missing woman Leah Croucher has doubled to £20,000 more than two years after her disappearance.

Leah, 19 at the time she went missing, was last seen shortly after leaving her house in Emerson Valley, Bucks., on her way to work at 8.16am on February 15, 2019.

It comes after police revealed there has been ‘no significant lead’ two years after Leah’s disappearance in Milton Keynes – and said that the young woman is potentially ‘no longer alive’.

In the months that followed Leah’s disappearance, two anonymous donors approached the investigation team from Buckinghamshire Police, offering a combined £10,000 reward for information in the search for Leah.

And now, a month after the two-year anniversary of Leah’s disappearance, police have confirmed that further offers of financial support have been made – bringing the reward total to £20,000.

Leah Croucher, 19, was last seen in Furzton, Milton Keynes just after 8.15am on February 15, 2019, (right). Her family last saw her at around 10pm the evening before.

John and Claire Croucher are pictured speaking to media at Milton Keynes Police Station, as they plead for information after Leah’s disappearance

Leah was last seen on CCTV down Buzzacott Lane in Furzton, Buckinghamshire while on her way to work 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 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’.

Leading the investigation for Thames Valley Police, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Howard said ‘we’ve had no confirmed sightings of Leah’ since February 15, 2019.

He said police had received ‘in the region of 600 pieces of information – be that information about what’s possibly happened to Leah or reported potential sightings’.

‘However, none of them have provided a significant lead to allow us to establish what’s happened to Leah,’ he said.

Mrs Croucher and her husband John believe Leah (pictured) could have been deceiving them when she told her family that she had stopped seeing an engaged man.

Leah disappeared the day after Valentine’s Day on February 15 and despite a widespread public appeal to find her, nobody has come forward with information

‘After all of this time with no contact, no positive sightings, no financial transactions, no social media and no phone activity, the potential that Leah is no longer alive has to increase.

‘Mystery really is the word. It’s bewildering and frustrating.’

Detective Chief Inspector Howard also said that friends had spoken to police about anxiety issues Leah was having at the time.

He suggested it is ‘possible that Leah has made a conscious decision and she’s acting of her own accord’, but refused to ‘preclude the role of a third party being involved in Leah’s disappearance’.

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

Miss Croucher’s parents John and Claire Croucher held an emotional press conference in February 2019 appealing for information

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’.

As the reward was doubled, Leah’s family said: ‘We are extremely grateful to the local businesses that have donated towards the reward for the safe return of our beautiful daughter, Leah.

‘The kindness of strangers, willing to offer their own money to help us find the answers we desperately need, is humbling beyond words.

‘Thank you is not strong enough to convey our gratitude.

Officers searched the Blue Lagoon lake in Milton Keynes in their investigation into her disappearance

‘We can only hope that the doubling of the reward amount will yield results and finally lead to information allowing us to find what happened to Leah that fateful day.

‘There are still so many questions and barely any answers.

‘We are asking you to please share this information far and wide, so that everyone is aware of the increase to £20,000.

‘During these times of COVID crisis, we hope that the person or persons who have the information we need will now finally come forward and inform the police.’

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Howard, said: ‘I can confirm that the reward for information that directly leads us to locating Leah has increased to £20,000.

‘I am incredibly grateful, as I know Leah’s family are, and would like to thank all the donors for their contributions in offering this reward.

‘We hope [this] will encourage anyone with the right piece of information to come forward and speak to us.

‘Since Leah went missing on 15th February 2019 there has been a fantastic response from the public, and particularly the local community in Milton Keynes.

‘These donations show how committed the local community are to helping find Leah and providing the answers that her family need and deserve.

‘Hopefully this is the incentive that somebody out there needs to come forward.

‘Our investigation into Leah’s disappearance remains open, and we are committed to finding her and bringing her back safely to her family.

Anyone who has information on this case is asked to contact 101 quoting reference number 43190049929, or Operation Dawlish.

Haydon, the brother of missing teenager Leah Croucher, killed himself after telling a therapist he was finding it difficult to cope.

His mother Tracey Furness has revealed that Haydon ‘felt so alone, so lost, so broken that he felt he had no other choice other than to take his own life’

Leah’s family are more determined than ever to find out what happened to their beloved daughter, with a statement from the family last month saying: ‘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.’

Her family have since revealed they believed she was in a relationship with a man who was engaged at the time of her disappearance.

However, police have since spoken to him and say they have no suspicions about him because it is thought he has an alibi for the time that Leah went missing.

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

Haydon with his sister Leah, with whom he was very close, before she went missing in 2019

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.

A £10,000 reward ‘for information that leads to Leah being located’ remains in place, and her family is still being supported by officers.

The statement from the family continued: ‘Leah, you have never left our thoughts for a moment. It may seem that at times to people that we are not thinking about you, but that is not true.

‘We still have those awful questions screaming in our brains -where are you? What happened? We still dream about you. Dream that we find you or that you come home, out of the blue.

‘That the police knock at the door to say they have found you, sometimes in the dream you are alive, sometimes you are not.

‘You are still the last thing we think about at night and the first thing we think about in the morning.’

Claire and John have also had to grapple with the death of their 24-year-old son Haydon Croucher, who committed suicide in his flat in Bletchley six months after Leah went missing.

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

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.

‘Leah, you have never left our thoughts for a moment. It may seem that at times to people that we are not thinking about you, but that is not true.

‘We still have those awful questions screaming in our brains – where are you? What happened?

‘We still dream about you. Dream that we find you or that you come home, out of the blue.

‘That the police knock at the door to say they have found you, sometimes in the dream you are alive, sometimes you are not.

‘You are still the last thing we think about at night and the first thing we think about in the morning.’