Last person to see Leah Croucher alive says community 'still doesn't feel safe'

Credit: ITV News Anglia. Tara Maher, last person to see Leah Croucher alive.
Tara Maher, 51, thinks she could have been the last person to see missing teenager Leah Croucher. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A mother who believes she was among the last people to see missing teenager Leah Croucher alive says the community "still doesn't feel safe" almost four years on.

Tara Maher, 51, said she used to pass Ms Croucher every morning in the Furzton area of Milton Keynes as she took her children to school.

The 19-year-old went missing in February 2019, when she vanished on her way to work.

Her remains were found more than three and a half years later in a house on Loxbeare Drive in Milton Keynes.

Leah Croucher, 19, went missing in Milton Keynes. Credit: Family photo

Police named Neil Maxwell, a handyman who did maintenance at the house where she was found, as the prime suspect in her murder.

Ms Maher said: “I still don’t feel as a community we feel very safe because there have been no updates or answers.

“We feel let down as a community because we haven’t had more information on everything.”

Neil Maxwell is thought to have grown a beard and lost weight in his efforts to evade police. Credit: Thames Valley Police

Maxwell - who was on the run at the time of her disappearance following an alleged sexual assault - was named as the police's only suspect.

He killed himself two months after Ms Croucher went missing.

Detectives admitted they have not found anyone who had seen the 48-year-old in Loxbeare Drive around the time Ms Croucher disappeared - or even in the Milton Keynes area any time after December 2018.

Police created a computer-generated image of what Maxwell could have looked like at the time Ms Croucher was last seen.

Det Chief Supt Ian Hunter said: "The investigation has now also established that Maxwell is likely to have changed his appearance to avoid being recognised." he said.

"He had grown a beard and may have lost weight."

Leah Croucher's remains were found in a house on Loxbeare Drive in Milton Keynes in October 2022. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Ms Maher recalled seeing Ms Croucher every morning at 8.20am and said she now takes a different route to take her children to school, just to avoid that path.

“Knowing that I saw her every single day down that path, it all floods back. It’s horrible," she said.

"It’s a feeling that just won’t go away. It can be quite upsetting so I made the decision to go on a different route.

“I saw her every day from September 2018, at the same time every morning. You don’t forget that because you build up an acknowledgement with someone when you walk past them every day, with a nod or a smile.

"It got to the stage where we did have a smile and it was the same that day [she disappeared]. We walked past each other, nodded and carried on walking.”

Police released this CCTV image of Leah on the day she went missing. Credit: Thames Valley Police

Ms Croucher went missing on the morning of 15 February 2019, when she left her home in Milton Keynes to head to work.

She was last seen on CCTV on Buzzacott Lane just after 8am, and the last activity on her phone was just after 8.30am that day. The teenager was reported missing by her parents, John and Claire, later that evening, after she failed to return home.

Thames Valley Police launched a huge missing person operation, but multiple searches of Furzton Lake and the nearby Blue Lagoon produced no results.

Over the years her family and police issued appeals for information, including a new photograph in February 2022, nearly three years on from her disappearance.

The force said it was "committed to establishing the truth and our investigation will invest the time and resources necessary to do so".

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