Police admit failings in tragic case of Leah Croucher from Milton Keynes

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Police and probation services have confessed there were failings and "lost opportunities" in the sad case of Leah Croucher, a pre-inquest has heard.

And Milton Keynes senior coroner Tom Osborne has now vowed look at admitted failings by the police and probation services that had not yet been revealed publicly.

Leah was 19 when she vanished inexplicably while walking to work on the morning of February 15 2019. Police treated the case as a missing person, despite her family insisting it was totally out of character for the home-loving teenager to disappear deliberately.

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Despite intensive searches, It was not until three years and eight months later – in October 2022 – that Leah’s body was found by chance, hidden in the attic of an unoccupied house at Furzton. It was a house that she walked past on her way to work an\d just 500 metres from where she was last seen alive on CCTV.

Leah CroucherLeah Croucher
Leah Croucher

Possessions Leah had been carrying on the day she went missing were also found at the house.

With many people wondering how police could have missed the house, TVP bosses held a 13-day investigation, after which they announced they had “done all they could” to find Leah during all the time she was missing.

A Home Office post mortem found the cause of death was “inconclusive.”

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The case shifted swiftly from a missing persons investigation to a murder hunt. Four days after Leah’s body was discovered, police declared they had a murder suspect - a convicted sex offender called Neil Maxwell, who was on the run from police at the time of Leah’s disappearance.

Neil Maxwell was the prime suspect for the murder of Leah CroucherNeil Maxwell was the prime suspect for the murder of Leah Croucher
Neil Maxwell was the prime suspect for the murder of Leah Croucher

Maxwell hanged himself in Campbell Park in April 2019. Over the preceding five months, he had evaded arrest 18 times.

As a self-employed property maintenance man, he was, according to the overseas owner of the Loxbeare Drive house, the only person in possession of keys to it at the time.

Police have now submitted 250 of documents and reports to the coroner in readiness for next month’s full inquest into Leah’s death. These set out failings and lost opportunities, the pre-inquest heard.

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Mr Osborne warned he would make an official report to prevent future deaths if he felt these failings had not been satisfactorily addressed and amended.

Mr Osborne said such a report could help fulfil the Croucher family's wish that they do not want another family going through what they have.

"If I am satisfied that those failings and concerns have been addressed satisfactorily by further statements from police and probation, then I no longer have that duty to make those points,” he said.

Leah’s family are being represented by a lawyer who has volunteered to act for no fee.

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Caroline Haughey KC, representing the family, told the court she was the only lawyer who would volunteer without a fee.

She told the BBC news: "Why should their misery be compounded by failings in the process?

"Leah was walking to work to carry on a normal day and because of failings, that predator was on the street - he should never have been at large."

The inquest will be heard on June 19 and 20.