Parents of Leah Croucher say death 'brutally extinguished' their glimmer of hope
The parents of Leah Croucher say her death had "brutally extinguished" any glimmer of hope her family had that she might be found alive.
The 19-year-old's remains were found in a loft in a house in Milton Keynes earlier this month, following a three-year search to find her.
In a tribute released on Thursday, her parents said that the void left after their daughter's disappearance had become a "deep chasm" following confirmation of her death, and that it had impacted an entire city.
"As a family, we knew this heart-breaking news would come one day. The news that Leah had been taken from us, from this world, forever. We are devastated that we have proven to be correct in this," they said, in a statement released by Thames Valley Police.
"The faint glimmer of hope that we all held allowed us to fool ourselves into believing that our assumption could have been wrong. The deepest, darkest grief that we, Leah’s family and friends are experiencing over the past weeks shows us that glimmer was actually, foolishly, a shining beacon of hope, which has now been brutally extinguished in the cruellest and harshest of ways. It has been a long way to fall back to reality.
"Leah had so much to achieve in her life, milestones that will now never be met. Family holidays, marriage, children, promotion, having her own home. So many ‘could have beens’…
"The void left in our lives after Leah’s disappearance was immense, a pain almost too big to bear. However, there is little that compares to the deep chasm Leah’s death has brought to us."
"Leah was a bright, funny young woman who was a kind, loyal, helpful and caring soul. Her smile lit up the room and her laugh cheered all who heard it. Leah had a wonderful sense of humour, who found joy in everything she did."
As a second-Dan black belt in Taekwondo, Miss Croucher had become a national and European champion, and enjoyed coaching the next generation at the family club she ran with her dad, they added.
"Leah’s presence and warmth impacted on all who knew her. Her disappearance has impacted on an entire city and beyond.
"The world and our lives are darker for losing her in the prime of life. Solace is found in the belief that Leah will only finally die when the last of us who remember her dies and Leah will hopefully be remembered by a lot of people for many years to come.
"We will soon be able to lay Leah to rest, as she deserves, and say our final goodbyes, be able to grieve at Leah’s graveside and lay flowers for her. We have missed Leah for so long already, and now have the rest of our lives to mourn her as well as the memories we will never be able to make.'
Addressing her directly, they said: "We were able to love you for 19 wonderful years, Leah, and make amazing memories together as a family, memories that we hope will be sufficient to carry us through the dark and lonely years we have to come.
"We hope soon that we will be able to look at pictures of you again, but they are too painful to even think about at the moment."
In a reference to Miss Croucher's brother Haydon, who took his own life in November 2019, nine months after she went missing, they added: "Give Haydon a big kiss and a big hug from us baby, we miss and love you both so much, but hope that you are together now, looking out for each other as always."
Police are still investigating the cause of death, but have named convicted sex offender Neil Maxwell as the prime suspect for Miss Croucher's murder.
Detectives said he was the only person with keys to the Loxbeare Drive house at the time of Ms Croucher’s disappearance.
He took his own life in April 2019, after police had made 18 attempts to arrest him at various places around the country.