Leah Croucher: Police name suspect Neil Maxwell at murder inquiry press conference

Police investigating the disappearance of missing teenager Leah Croucher have identified the man they suspect of her murder as a dead sex offender named Neil Maxwell.

The 19-year-old went missing on 15 February 2019 and police have since mounted a three-year campaign to find her.

Maxwell was named by Thames Valley Police at a press conference on Friday, who said he took his own life on 20 April 2019, two months after Leah disappeared.

Thames Valley Police's head of crime, Det Ch Supt Ian Hunter said Maxwell was employed by the overseas owner of the property to do maintenance at the house in Milton Keynes where human remains were found this week.

He had keys to the property from November 2018 and was the only person to have them at the time of Leah's disappearance.

No other suspects are being investigated by police, said Mr Hunter.

He confirmed that the human remains found at the house in Loxbeare Drive in the Furzton area were uncovered in the loft.

But he said further investigations were needed to establish how long the body may have been in the house.

Mr Hunter said: "Today, I am able to confirm that we have nominated a suspect in this case. His name is Neil Maxwell.

"However, Maxwell was found dead on 20 April 2019 having taken his own life.

"It is unusual to name a suspect, but we have also learned this week that during the time when Leah went missing, and while the owner of the property was not in the UK, Maxwell was the only person to have keys to the property.

"Maxwell had been employed by the home owner to carry out some property maintenance at the house. We now know that Maxwell had keys to this property from November 2018.

"While 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."

Police at the house in Loxbeare Drive Credit: PA

Maxwell had previous convictions for sexual offences against women and was wanted in connection with a sexual assault in Newport Pagnell in November 2018, the force said.

Officers tried to arrest Maxwell at a house in Milton Keynes on 30 November, the day after the offence was reported to them, but he was not there.

Detectives established he was in Scotland and said "further arrest attempts were continually made throughout the UK at various different addresses".

DCI 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."

Det Ch Insp Ian Hunter at a Thames Valley Police press conference on Friday. Credit: PA

The Loxbeare Drive house is owned by someone who lives overseas "and rarely comes to the UK", said Mr Hunter, who also confirmed the owner was abroad when Leah went missing.

On Monday police began searching a house in the Furzton area of Milton Keynes, less than half a mile from where Leah was last seen.

Two days later they launched a murder inquiry after finding human remains at the house, alongside items including a rucksack belonging to Leah.

Her family visited the property in Loxbeare Drive on Thursday night, to lay flowers with a message saying that their "darkest fears" had come true.

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