Prime suspect in Leah Croucher murder 'changed appearance to evade police' over sexual assault

Neil Maxwell as he was last known (left) and how police believe he may have looked at the time of Leah Croucher's disappearance.
Neil Maxwell is thought to have grown a beard and lost weight in his efforts to evade police. Credit: Thames Valley Police

A convicted sex offender and prime suspect in the murder of teenager Leah Croucher had "grown a beard and lost weight" to avoid police, detectives believe.

Neil Maxwell remains the only person thought to be responsible for the 19-year-old's death after she disappeared in February 2019.

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

Police later named Maxwell - who was on the run at the time of her disappearance following an alleged sexual assault - as their only suspect.

But three months on, detectives admitted they had 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 have now created a computer-generated image of what Maxwell could have looked like at the time Ms Croucher was last seen.

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

Det Chief Supt Ian Hunter said Maxwell knew he was wanted in connection with a sexual assault investigation in Newport Pagnell in November 2018 and had made "extensive efforts to evade arrest" using fake names, and stopping using his mobile phone and vehicles.

"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."

Maxwell killed himself two months after Ms Croucher went missing.

"He is likely to have known that he would be returning to prison if he was arrested and convicted," said Det Ch Supt Hunter.

"Did you see this person in or around Loxbeare Drive, Furzton, at any time between December 2018 and 20 April 2019?

Police believe Neil Maxwell may have changed his appearance - losing weight and growing a beard - at the time Leah Croucher went missing. Credit: Thames Valley Police

Thames Valley Police said they had carried out detailed forensic searches and examinations following the discovery of Ms Croucher and still had a dedicated team working on the case.

Officers have spoken with and taken statements from hundreds of people, reviewed more CCTV footage and carried out more house-to-house inquiries.

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

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

It was one of the biggest news stories of our time - and it's still not over. So what did Boris Johnson know about Downing Street’s notorious parties? With fresh revelations from our Number 10 sources, in their own words, listen to the inside story...