Sighting of mysterious man 'hiding' female in car emerges on the day Leah Croucher disappeared in Milton Keynes
Police have been urged to re-examine details given to them at the time
A witness has spoken out about a mysterious sighting that could provide a vital clue in the baffling case of missing Milton Keynes woman Leah Croucher.
On the morning the 19-year-old vanished, a male driver was spotted aggressively pushing down a passenger in his car just yards away from Furzton Lake.
Police say they undertook "proportionate enquiries" at the time but the witness, who is adamant she has never been interviewed by officers, is urging them to re-examine her evidence.
The witness was another driver, a female in her 60s, who had been watching the shiny black car while waiting in a queue of traffic. She thought it was strange because she could see a foot appearing on the dashboard, from the passenger seat, but no sign of the rest of the person.
"Suddenly a right foot appeared on the dashboard, followed by a left foot....I guessed they belonged to a female because of the size," she told the MK Citizen.
"I was stationary and the car was at a junction to the side of me, waiting to pull out, so I had quite a good view."
As the witness watched, events took a turn so strange that she almost stopped her car and ran out to check if the unseen passenger was okay.
She remembers the time clearly - it was between 8.35am and 8.40am. Leah's phone left the network inexplicably at 8.34am - in the area of Furzton Lake.
The witness said: "As I watched the car, the driver suddenly let go of the steering wheel with both hands, twisted himself round and pushed whoever the feet belonged to down really forcefully. He was using both hands and it seemed a very aggressive thing to do.
"It was like he was trying to hide someone... I remember being concerned enough that I tried to get the number plate, but I was at the wrong angle to see it. I hoped the cars in front of me would move forward enough so I could allow the driver to pull out in front of me and I'd get a better view.
"At one point I even contemplated getting out of my car, running down the road and asking him what on earth he was doing."
But at that moment the cars began to move and another driver, several cars in front, let the mystery motorist pull out in front of him.
"I lost sight of him after that, but it continued to prey on my mind. Was it a father disciplining a naughty teenager perhaps for putting their feet on the dashboard? It looked too aggressive for that. Or was it something more sinister? I wish I'd had my phone to hand and taken a photograph."
The date was February 15 2019. It was not until two or three days later that the news of Leah's disappearance hit the headlines. The Emerson Valley 19-year-old had vanished while walking to work the morning after Valentine's Day and there were no clues about what had happened to her.
The witness did not hesitate to contact the police.
"As soon as I heard about Leah, I called the number police were giving out on their appeal," she said.
"Was it Leah I saw that morning? Had someone taken her and was trying to hide her? It seemed such a coincidence that it happened at almost exactly the same time and place.
"I may have been putting two and two together and making five, but I thought it was something police ought to know about.
"I rang the number and quoted the reference number. The female who answered sounded quite young and it seemed she was either not very interested or had worked all night and was very tired. Either way she did not appear very bothered about what I was saying. But she said she'd pass the information on."
The witness says she gave her name, address and contact details and waited for a follow up call.
"I half expected the police to knock at my door asking to take a statement, which would have been fine. But nothing happened - no call or no visit."
Some weeks later, after reading about a fresh appeal for information and the growing concerns for Leah's welfare, the witness contacted police a second time. This time she used the dedicated online site police had set up for Leah's case, writing down what she had seen that morning.
"Again I heard nothing. It was strange. Later I called again to ask them specifically if they had looked into what I told them. I was told they couldn’t comment."
Since then the witness, like thousands of other people in MK, has never stopped wondering about what happened to the shy, home-loving teenager, who would now be 22 years old. She continues to be haunted by the memory of what she saw.
"I live quite close to the family and I knew Leah by sight. She seemed a lovely girl from a lovely family and always struck me as the type that would never disappear voluntarily," she said.
"I've never stopped wondering if what I saw could be relevant. And I'm always thinking about Leah's poor family and the heartbreak they must be going through in not knowing what happened to her."
This week the witness decided to break her silence and tell the MK Citizen her story. Her actions were prompted by a local Facebook group of members of the public frustrated by the lack of progress in solving the mystery.
She has given a description of the car, the man and what she saw of the shoes - and she has asked the Citizen to pass the details directly to police involved in the case.
She has made it quite clear that she does not wish to claim the £20,000 reward on offer and, if anything came of her information, would rather the money went to charity.
Here is her description:
"The car was possibly a coupe model with a slanted back and it was black and very shiny. I remember thinking what a nice shiny car it was. A white car was behind it.
"The man driving the black car was aged maybe 30 to 40 and had darkish hair, dark brown rather than black. It was cut in what I call a 'mophead' style. Not hippie long and not short back and sides, but sort of hanging down - rather like the Beatles had their hair in the early days.
"He was wearing a dark, bottle green jumper and a tan-coloured jacket. It was a long jacket, not a short one. It may have been leather."
The only thing the witness could glimpse of the passenger was the shoes.
"All I remember is that they had dark soles. They definitely weren't trainers with the white soles you see. They could have been boots. They were not adult male shoes because they were too small. They looked to be the size a teenager or female would wear."
The witness was travelling along the H7 (Chaffron Way) towards Central Milton Keynes. The black saloon was pulling out of a junction onto the H7 on the road leading at a right angle directly from the lake.
"It was literally just yards away from the lake," said the witness.
Over the 31 months since Leah disappeared, police have conducted numerous searches using specialist teams and divers. They have conducted door to door enquiries, visited 4,000 properties, reviewed 1,200 hours of CCTV and made widespread media appeals.
But, despite the reward on offer, no clue as to what happened has been received. No trace of Leah, including her phone, her clothes and her black rucksack handbag, has ever been found and nobody has been arrested in connection with the case, which police admit is "baffling and frustrating".
The last sighting of Leah was at 8.20am, walking past 'Tellytubby Hill' on Furzton, opposite the Tesco Express, heading towards Furzton Lake on her way to work at her admin job at a finance company on Knowlhill.
The Citizen has now handed all the information from the witness to Thames Valley Police and asked if it can go directly to the Leah investigation team.
We have asked if the sighting was investigated at the time and, if not, if it can be examined now.
"I'd be more than willing to talk to the police," said the witness. "I've tried twice to give them the details but nobody had contacted me to ask me questions. I have not had a face to face verbal dialogue with any officer regarding this."
"I just want it to be either ruled out or looked at in detail.... Perhaps they could find the car on CCTV that was taken at the time."
A police spokesman told the Citizen: “Thames Valley Police can confirm that we have spoken to this individual about the reports that she has made to us and proportionate actions and enquiries were taken as a result of the information we received.
“Our investigation is still ongoing and we continue to ask anyone who may have information to please visit a police station, report online or call 101, quoting 43190049929 or ‘Operation Dawlish’, if you can help us find Leah.”