'Could your new friend be my Leah in disguise?' Asks the mother of missing Milton Keynes woman
The mum of missing Milton Keynes woman Leah Croucher is asking people everywhere to think "long and hard" about any new young females that have come into their lives since February - in case one of them is her daughter in disguise.
Her words are part of a heart-wrenching video she has made with the Missing People charity as a last-ditch bid to find her daughter this year.
She said: “The impact Leah's disappearance has had on me is devastating. I go to work, I go to see friends and family, but it does not mean anything... everything is hollow. “
Claire revealed how she talks to the the posters of her daughter that are posted all over Milton Keynes because she misses her so desperately.
"Her posters are everywhere. I stand at a bus stop and I talk to them because she isn't here for me to talk to her."
Still reeling from the tragic suicide of Leah's much-loved brother Haydon last month, the family cannot bring themselves to celebrate Christmas at all this year, said Claire.
She broke down in tears as she said: “Her brother particularly struggled. He didn't cope at all with it and gave his own life because he could not cope with the lack of news, the lack of evidence and the lack of suspects. The not knowing where Leah is... Has she chosen to do this to us all? (Which none of us believe she did). And if that's the case, where is she? What has happened it her? The questions just slowly drive you insane.
“Haydon's mind just wasn't able to cope...He was desperate to find answers. He took the role of protecting his little sister very, very seriously. He always did, from the minute she was born. They were always together.”
Claire, who lives on Emerson Valley, has previously described how her hope of finding Leah alive has faded over the months, and she fears “something bad” has happened to her. If that is the case, she has begged for the person responsible to tell her where her daughter's s body is hidden, so she can lay her to rest.
The fear of an agonising outcome was reinforced last week when Haydon's funeral took place – a tragic event that the kind-hearted Leah the family knew and loved knew would never have missed.
But Claire and her husband John are still clinging onto a shred of hope that Leah, who would now be 20, may be in hiding somewhere, possibly in disguise. This could be of her own doing, or because somebody else is somehow forcing or influencing her.
In a new perspective on the appeal, Claire is asking everybody to scrutinise any new young females who have come into their lives since February 15, the day Leah vanished.
She said: “Take a long hard look at your new friends and think. If it could be Leah, report it. Because we need to know. We are all going crazy.”
To Leah herself, Claire says: “Leah, if you are out there, come home. It is more important now than ever that you come home. Everybody misses you so deeply, everybody is looking for you. Please be found... If for some reason you do not want to talk to me or dad, you can call the police. Or you can call Missing People. There are plenty of people you can get in touch with. We just want to know that you are alive and safe and well. “
Claire is urging the person or persons who are cruelly withholding information about her daughter to show some decency and come forward.
She said: “I just need the people that do have some information to come forward, because they are not only helping me, John and Jade (Leah's sister) but they are helping everybody... the whole country wants to know where she is.”
If you are withholding any information about Leah, please listen to Claire's appeal and show respect for her wishes.
You can call police on 101 or you can be totally anonymous and call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Calls are free and are not traced.
Alternatively, you can call the Missing People charity's on Freephone number 116 000.