Leah Croucher probably died in sex attack by Neil Maxwell in Milton Keynes, inquest hears

Leah Croucher.
Credit: Family photo
Leah Croucher disappeared in Milton Keynes and her body was found more than three years later. Credit: Thames Valley Police

Teenager Leah Croucher is believed to have died after trying to defend herself in a sex attack, a police officer told an inquest.

Ms Croucher, 19, who was a black belt in martial arts, disappeared while walking to work in Milton Keynes on 15 February 2019. Her body was found more than three years later in a house nearby.

Police named Neil Maxwell, a handyman and convicted sex offender as a murder suspect. But he had already taken his own life in April 2019 - two months after Ms Croucher vanished.

Thames Valley Police's Det Supt Kevin Brown told the inquest he believed Maxwell killed Ms Croucher.

He said his “professional experience and knowledge would suggest Leah would have died very close to the day she went missing, if not on it”.

Leah Croucher was 19 when she vanished on February 15 2019 Credit: Thames Valley Police/PA

Caroline Haughey KC, representing Ms Croucher’s family, asked if he believed it was “likely to be an unwarranted sexual attack and in fact because of her martial arts ability, she reacted and subsequently died”.

Mr Brown said: “I believe she would have defended herself; that may have escalated the situation.”

He said Ms Croucher's walk to work would take about 40 minutes. One of the routes would take her past the house in Loxbeare Drive, Furzton - where her remains were found.

The house was owned by people who lived abroad and used it as a holiday home. They had not visited during the Covid pandemic, the officer said.

Maxwell was a handyman and the only person with keys to the property.

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

Her body was found years later as another maintenance worker was trying to get rid of a smell in the property.

Mr Osborne said: “Whoever had placed the body in the loft had taken steps to remove certain limbs and place them in plastic bags.”

Ms Croucher's backpack and personal belongings were also found at the house.

A post-mortem examination was inconclusive and Ms Croucher was identified by her dental records, the inquest heard.

Her cause of death was unascertained due to decomposition.

Maxwell was wanted for another sex attack in Newport Pagnell near Milton Keynes in November 2018.

He used false names and stopped using his phone and car to avoid being caught. Officers also believe he lost weight and grew a beard to change his appearance.

The two-day inquest, which is due to continue on Thursday, is looking into how Ms Croucher died and whether her death could have been avoided.

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