New sighting of Leah Croucher 'with tears in her eyes' in Milton Keynes

'Her hair was wet and tucked into her jacket', says dog walker

A new sighting has emerged of Leah Croucher on the day she vanished - and once again it was at Teardrop Lakes in MK.

A dog walker has described how she was walking along the path nearest the A5 and saw a girl matching Leah's description walking north towards Loughton.

She said: "My dog went up to the girl, she patted her on the head. I apologised to the girl. She had tears in her eyes, gave a small smile and stood until I walked off.

Leah captured on CCTV clocking into work the day before she vanished

"Her hair was wet and tucked into her jacket."

The dog walker informed police at the time of the sighting, which happened between 8:40am and 8:50am on Friday February 15 2019.

“I did report seeing a young girl looking very sad in a black jacket with a small backpack and white ear buds on the A5 side of Teardrop Lakes. I was interviewed by the police in my home, a few days later I had to meet two police officers at the lakes to show them where I saw her.

“I told them it was approximately 8:40am. They said it could not have been her. I know the time because I got home at 8:50am...At the time I was convinced it was her but the police thought otherwise."

The sighting was at this path on Teardrop Lakes

The sighting came to light through the community web sleuths Facebook group called Leah Croucher Disappearance - Community Investigation, which now has 6,000 members.

The group's aim is to share information and thoughts that may lead to some insight into what has happened to Leah and where she may be. Over the past months, members have unearthed a string of potentially valuable snippets of information and leads. All have been passed to the police investigating Leah's disappearance.

The Facebook group revealed details last week of another potential sighting at Teardrop Lakes, which are less than a mile away from Furzton Lake - the area where Leah's phone left the network at 8.34am on February 15 2019. Until now, the investigation has always centred upon Furzton Lake as a pivotal point in her disappearance.

Teardrop Lakes are in Knowlhill, not far from 360 Play and close to where Leah worked in her admin job at DFC finance company. It is possible that she could have walked backwards and forwards between the two lakes but she would have had to have been walking at speed.

This is where the girl was spotted

Or she could have been driven - which would fit with a mysterious sighting of a passenger being aggressively 'hidden' in a shiny black car by a driver that morning. You can read about this here.

But three other potential sightings that morning indicate Leah may have returned to Furzton Lake for some reason. The one thing all five sightings have in common is that Leah seemed upset. One witness described the girl as "crying and distressed", while another said she seemed "in a foul mood".

If the sightings were Leah, why was she upset? Who had upset her? Was she waiting for someone? Had she arranged to meet someone and that person kept shifting the time and location? These are all questions that need answering - but they all fit in with Leah's family's view that she would never have disappeared voluntarily and alone, without someone encouraging or coercing her.

Another mystery is the fact that the girl's hair was wet. The morning was cold but there were no reports of rain.

Both the Teardrop Lakes sightings came as a result of a massive poster campaign run by the Facebook group. Crucially the new location could shift the previous timeline and area of Leah's disappearance and lead to more vital witness reports to help discover what happened to her that morning.

The Facebook group is now appealing for anybody else who was at Teardrop Lakes that day. A spokesman said: "Do you remember anything from that morning? Please check your social media and old photos for time stamps or dates. Thank you."

The Citizen has asked Thames Valley Police for a full list of all lakes and other areas searched as part of the Leah investigation.

A spokesman said it was not possible to go into details of every area searched, because of the "extensive nature of our searches" over the past 34 months.

But he confirmed that Teardrop Lakes HAD been thoroughly searched shortly after Leah vanished - and not a single clue was found.

The spokesman said: "Thames Valley Police continue to investigate the disappearance of Leah Croucher on 15 February 2019. During the course of the last 34 months, extensive searches have been conducted across Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas.

"We are aware of the sightings at Teardrop Lakes and this was reported to us in the very early stages of the investigation in 2019. These reported sightings led us to conduct a full search of Teardrop Lakes and the surrounding area using specialist search teams, including a dive unit.

"No trace of Leah was found."

He added: "Extensive searches of areas of land and water around Milton Keynes have been undertaken. Any search that we undertake is due to either a reported sighting of Leah or other information indicating a relevant location."

Police are repeating their plea for people to come forward with any information they have.

"Any piece of information, no matter how small you believe this to be, may assist in the search for Leah," said the spokesman.

You can also visit the dedicated portal for this investigation or visit your local police station.

People can make a report to police online via the dedicated Leah portalor call 101, quoting 43190049929 or Operation Dawlish.

If you prefer to stay anonymous please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Calls are free of charge.