Police made 18 attempts to arrest Leah Croucher murder suspect Neil Maxwell while he was on the run following an alleged sexual assault, it has emerged.
Det Ch Insp Ian Hunter told a press conference that before the alleged murder, Maxwell had been wanted in connection with a sexual assault in Newport Pagnell in November 2018.
Police had tried 18 times to arrest him across the country, he said.
Maxwell later took his own life in April 2019 before the police found him.
Police named him as the prime suspect in the murder of Leah Croucher, after her belongings were found alongside human remains at a home in Milton Keynes where Maxwell had been a handyman.
“The sexual assault was reported to Bedfordshire Police on November 29, 2018 and the case was transferred to Thames Valley Police the same day,” Mr Hunter said.
“We first attempted to arrest Maxwell in connection with the sexual assault the following day, November 30 2018, at an address in central Milton Keynes, but Maxwell was not present.”
He said Maxwell knew he was wanted in connection with the sexual assault and made concerted efforts to evade arrest, including using false names and changing his mobile phone and vehicles while travelling around the UK.
“During this time, we established that Maxwell was at an unknown location in Scotland at one stage, but further arrest attempts were continually made throughout the UK at various different addresses,” he said.
“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.”
Thames Valley Police published a public wanted appeal to find Maxwell on April 4, 2019, but he was found dead two weeks later on April 20 having taken his own life.
Leah disappeared while walking to work on February 15 2019.
Mr Hunter said police had pursued “every reasonable line of inquiry” in Leah’s case over the past three-and-a-half years, including reviewing 1,200 hours of CCTV, conducting more than 4,000 house-to-house inquiries, and searching lakes, open land and woodland.
During these inquiries police visited 2 Loxbeare Drive on “at least” two occasions, but there was no response at the house.
When no one answered at the property, police left a leaflet requesting a call back, and also visited the property to scope what CCTV was available in the area.
Mr Hunter said: “But sadly, the call from the member of the public that we received on Monday was the first occasion that information was made available to enable the investigation team to provide any link between that address in Loxbeare Drive and Leah.”