Is Leah Croucher ALIVE? Cops hunting for missing teen vow they haven't given up finding her 4 years after she vanished

THE mystery surrounding the disappearance of Leah Croucher deepened today as top cops vowed they haven't given up on finding her ALIVE.

Leah sparked a nationwide manhunt when she vanished after telling her family she was going to see a friend on February 15, 2019.



CCTV showed the then 19-year-old walking along a road in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire at about 8.15am that day.

No more sightings of Leah were reported – until February 2020, when witnesses told of a "crying" woman matching her description spotted on the day she vanished.

The "angry and upset" girl was seen texting near Furzton Lake between 9.30am and 11.15am on February 15.

That's hours after Leah was last spotted on CCTV – and after her phone left the network, never to be used again.

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And an image – uncovered by web sleuths – shows a person dressed entirely in black at Furzton Lake at 10.51am that day.

The figure appears to have a rucksack exactly like Leah's when she vanished – and no-one has ever come forward claiming to be her.

Now, the case's Senior Investigating Officer DCI Andy Howard has told The Sun how the force is still "absolutely committed to finding Leah" alive.

Despite four years passing since her disappearance – Thames Valley Police are treating the case as a missing person probe, and have not ungraded their investigation to a murder enquiry.

It means cops are still working on the theory that Leah is alive.

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And Criminology Professor David Wilson said no-one ever coming forward to say they were the "crying woman" is a positive sign.

DCI Howard said: "The photograph of the person dressed in black was taken at 10.51am on the morning of 15 February 2019.

“It is not possible from the image alone to say whether the person dressed in black is Leah.

"But we do have witnesses in the area of the lake at around this time who describe seeing a young female in black clothing who is described as appearing distracted or upset, and possibly using her phone.

“Despite previous appeals we have so far been unable to establish the identity of this female and so if you believe this was you or you know who it is, please contact the police.

“Were you in the area of Furzton Lake between 10.45am and 11.30am on that morning?

“I know this was three years ago, but this image was taken the day after Valentine’s Day, and just prior to the school half-term break, and so it may be that you remember being in the area, or you walk in this area regularly.

“I would appeal once again, if you believe that any of the figures in these images could be you, or somebody that you may know, please get in touch.

HUNT CONTINUES

“We remain absolutely committed to finding Leah and seeking answers for her family.

“We continue to keep in close contact with Leah’s family, and continue to support them.”

Prof. Wilson – Professor Emeritus of Criminology at Birmingham City University – stressed that nothing can be ruled "in or out" in missing persons cases.

He told The Sun: "One of the things that I'm often having to explain to people in my work is there are people who disappear and whose bodies are never found.

"There's this kind of belief that somehow people do get found all the time.

"A total of 170,000 people go missing in the UK every single year – and nearly all of those people turn up one or two days, or within the week.

"But around about 1 per cent of people who are just never found.

"However, because of that, because their bodies are never found, obviously they are presumed dead.

"That gives free rein to armchair detectives to invent all kinds of theories as to why that body has never been found and you've got to be really careful about trying to determine what is credible and what is just incredible."

He added: "For me, one of the things that significant is that there were CCTV images on the day that she disappeared."

Timeline of Leah Croucher’s disappearance

  • 8.15am, February 15, 2019: CCTV shows Leah Croucher walking along a road in Furzton – believed to be in the direction of her work;
  • 9.30am – 11.15am, February 15, 2019: Witnesses describe seeing a "crying" woman matching Leah's description texting near Furzton Lake;
  • 10.15am, February 15, 2019: An image – taken at 10.51am that day – shows a person dressed entirely in black at Furzton Lake.

"My own view is at the minute, there is literally no evidence whatsoever will allow you to rule hypotheses in terms of what happened to Leah Croucher.

"Three people if I read correctly three people saw a woman dressed very similarly to Leah Croucher who was clearly distressed.

"She was upset about something.

"There has been a lot of publicity about women dressed in black, who was was obviously distressed.

"That woman has never come forward. Nobody has ever come forward. And so my presumption is that IS Leah Croucher."

But he stressed "you can't rule things in or out".

Prof. Wilson added: "There has still to be hypothesis about what happened to her.

"The big thing that's positive about Leah, as far as I'm concerned, is that the senior investigating officer has been the same senior investigating officer from the word go.

"From the get go it is the same Detective Chief Inspector that has been running this investigation from day one to where we are today.

"I know from my work, that that often isn't the case.

"Senior investigating officers change on a regular basis on missing persons cases.

" And that isn't the case here. That's gives me a lot of confidence.

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"And all I would say is in the absence of evidence, keeping Leah Croucher's name in the public eye is the best thing that can be done, because people will come forward if there is publicity."

Police appealed for anyone who knew anything about the disappearance to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, adding that there was a £20,000 reward for information.



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