'It's time to tell your secret' say parents of missing Milton Keynes woman Leah Croucher
The parents of missing Milton Keynes woman Leah Croucher are begging people who may be withholding vital information about their daughter to come clean in the New Year and end the family's torment.
They firmly believe somebody is harbouring a massive secret about what caused the 19-year-old martial arts expert to vanish without trace during her walk to work 11 long months ago.
They are convinced their daughter would not disappear voluntary and cut off her family. And this belief was compounded in November when Leah, who would now be 20, failed to turn up to the funeral of her of beloved brother Haydon.
Haydon, 24, took his own life because he could not cope with the anguish of not knowing where his sister was.
Their dad, Taekwondo instructor John Croucher said: "He didn't want to face another day of not knowing Leah's fate."
He admits he not only understood his son's state of mind, but he was "jealous of him, almost" for having an end to the agony.
"And now there's a new phrase in our minds to drive us insane. Two, we've lost two. Over and over," he said.
He added: "Time is not making our pain easier to bear. Watching our oldest and now only child suffer. Thinking of how we will now not have weddings to attend or grandchildren to babysit and enjoy. Christmas has gone. It was bleak. Desolate. Lonely. Quiet. No decorations. No presents. No special dinner. Just billboards courtesy of Missing People displaying photos of our missing daughter around the town of MK.
"There was just another search of land, this time in Bedford. Just a trip to a graveyard on Christmas Day. Haydon hopefully enjoyed the bottle of his favourite Ciroc vodka we poured on his grave."
On New Year's Eve, John and his wife Claire stayed behind closed doors at their Emerson Valley home.
"We started 2019 with three beautiful children and a world of hope at our feet...The phrase 'happy New Year' now feels hollow on our lips.We just don't feel able to pretend at the minute. We are tired and broken. No-one should have to bear pain in this volume. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy," he said.
John describes the torture of waiting for news through the throng of police searches and UK-wide investigations.
"We waited for news of DNA testing for a foot in Humberside, a partial scalp in Houghton Regis. There was the horrible worry that these random body parts may be all we get back of our beautiful daughter. Then there was relief when told it's not her - but pain at realising we've had all that horror and are still no closer to an answer. Then sorrow because that foot belonged to some young woman. Her poor family."
John and Claire are now desperately hoping that 2020 will bring news of their daughter. Even though their hopes are fading that she is alive, they would desperately like her body to be found so they can lay her to rest and 'say a proper goodbye'.
So far, despite exhaustive police investigations, searches and appeals for information, there has not been a single clue about what happened to Leah on the fateful frosty morning of February 15.
In what police admit is a "highly unusual" case, there has been no confirmed sighting since CCTV picked her up in Buzzacott Lane in Furzton just after 8.15am that day, bundled up against the cold in a black coat, skinny black jeans, black Converse high top shoes and carrying a small black rucksack.
The family say one one thing is certain - Leah did not vanish on her own and somebody out there, possibly more than one person, knows exactly what happened to her.
Despite a £5,000 reward, nobody has ever had the courage to come forward and provide that vital clue.
John said: "We still have to beg you. Please help us to end our pain and suffering. Help us to find out what happened to our daughter. We miss her so much it's unbearable."
He has thanked everybody who has supported his family over the past year.
"So many people have been affected by one young ladies disappearance and one young man's death. It isn't just us, their immediate family that have been affected. Friends, work colleagues and our taekwondo family have all felt the despair and pain.
"Thank you to everyone... The shares and retweets on social media. Donations to just giving pages. The poster coverage worldwide. The kind words and food. The hugs. The press coverage. The police support. Charity support. Small business displaying Leah's posters on their work vans. Work colleagues running super marathons. Our kind anonymous angel with the donation of the £5000 reward money. Thank you every single person."
If you have anything to report about Leah, please call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.