Leah Croucher: PCC confident police had no evidence pointing to house where teen's remains found

Missing teenager Leah Croucher.
Credit: Family photo
Teenager Leah Croucher's remains were found in a house in Milton Keynes in October. Credit: Family photo

A police chief has insisted he is confident officers investigating the disappearance of Leah Croucher had no evidence linking the missing teenager to the house where her remains were found more than three years later.

The 19-year-old's backpack and other belongings were also found at the property at Loxbeare Drive in Milton Keynes earlier this month, mid-way between the last two confirmed sightings of her back in February 2019.

Officers had knocked on the door of the house at least twice during door-to-door inquiries but, when there was no answer, they left leaflets and moved on.

Police have since named convicted sex offender Neil Maxwell, who killed himself three months after Miss Croucher's disappearance, as a key suspect in their murder inquiry. He was the only person with keys to the property at the time of Miss Croucher's disappearance.

Following the discovery of human remains in the loft of the house, police and crime commissioner Matthew Barber asked Thames Valley Police to carry out an urgent review of their investigation.

The house in Loxbeare Drive was searched for several days before police revealed what had been discovered. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The PCC said, following the conclusion of that "quick internal review" by the chief constable, he was confident the force had done "everything it could have done in the circumstances to find Leah".

Mr Barber said he could understand public concern about the proximity of the house to Miss Croucher's route to work, but he insisted police had not "missed" any opportunity.

"It's hard to describe that property as being missed," he said. "We now look back with the luxury of hindsight but of course there were thousands of properties that were visited in Milton Keynes. Many of those, hundreds, would have been empty when the police visited.

"There was never any information to directly link Leah's disappearance to that property until the reports that came in much later that led to the discovery of the remains."

Mr Barber said it was not within the police's powers to enter or search a property when there was no evidence to suggest any wrongdoing.

"Police don't have the powers or justification to search every property where there isn't an answer at the door," he said. "It's not practical. It wouldn't be legal. It wouldn't be proportionate."

Following the review, the PCC for Thames Valley said he felt confident officers had conducted their inquiries "thoroughly and with great passion" and insisted those involved had been just as strongly affected by the recent developments in the case as other people.

Asked about Neil Maxwell's link to the case, Mr Barber confirmed the suspect had been on the run from police at the time Miss Croucher went missing.

Neil Maxwell - a sex offender police had tried to arrest 18 times Credit: Thames Valley Police

A total of 18 attempts had been made to arrest him over an alleged sexual assault and Maxwell had previous convictions for sex offences.

But, again, the police review found no evidence that could link him to the teenager's disappearance in February 2019.

"He was known to Thames Valley Police, as unfortunately are far too many people who are suspected of sexual offences," said Mr Barber. "There were significant attempts made to arrest Maxwell, not just in Thames Valley but across the country and he was actively seeking to evade arrest by the police.

"The fact there were 18 attempts show how persistent the force, and policing across the country, was in trying to apprehend this individual because it is widely recognised that someone who commits sexual offending is likely to go on to offend again. It was recognised that this individual posed a threat.

"But there was no evidence at the time to link his movements to the location where Leah was."

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