The sister of missing Leah Croucher has urged the public to “remain positive” that the teenager will be found safe and sound.
Jade Croucher, 26, is holding out hope that Leah will contact her or other family members before her 20th birthday, which is on August 14.
“It would be lovely if she messaged me on her birthday,” she said.
“Every day I wake up with the hope that we will get a little bit of a breakthrough that Leah is safe and well. I’m constantly checking my phone, but so far there has been nothing.”
Leah vanished while walking to work 21 weeks ago. Her phone has never been found but police say it was switched off at the time of her disappearance and has not been used since.
“Leah knows how to contact me even if she can’t remember my mobile number,” said Jade. “She could contact me on social media or via Snapchat...She used Snapchat a lot.
“She knows I am always there for her. I always have been. There’s a seven year ago gap so I’ve always been the big sister. We’ve always been so close - she was my little shadow when she was growing up.
Battling back the tears, Jade added: “I remember when I was younger and being told when Leah was born. I was so excited to be a big sister. I said I would always look after her.”
Jade said their relationship was close enough for Leah to confide in her if she had a problem, or tell her “teenage things” that she may not want to talk to her parents about.
“But before she disappeared there was nothing, nothing at all that seemed to be wrong. The last conversation we had was by text and it was completely normal. Leah was just talking about day to day stuff, work, friends, etc. She sounded happy and fine.”
Jade refuses to be drawn about whether Leah had a boyfriend or boyfriend trouble at the time she vanished, which was the morning after Valentine’s Day.
“I don’t think that’s relevant,” she said. “She was a normal 19-year-old, that’s all.”
Jade and her family are clinging to the hope that Leah is still alive and disappeared voluntarily - despite this being “totally out of character” for the home-loving girl.
“Our hope is that someone knows something and they will contact the police to tell them,” she said.
Jade has praised the police for how hard they have worked over the past five months in a bid to solve the mystery, which has been described as one of the most unusual cases local police have ever handed.
She said: People sometimes criticise the police, saying they’re not doing enough to find Leah. But these people don’t see what’s going on behind the scenes. Police are working really hard and they’ve been amazing.”
Jade added: “I need to remain hopeful and I need to be strong that they will find my sister. My message to people out there is to please remain positive with me and continue to help us spread awareness of Leah’s case. We need to keep this awareness going until she is home.”
Meanwhile brave Jade is raising money to held the national Missing People charity, which has provided support to her family. Recently she completed a sponsored climb of Snowdon.
“I set out to raise £500. But donations came in from people I didn’t even know and now the fund stands at £3,309.56. It’s amazing.”
You can donate to Jade’s fund via her online donations page
* If anybody knows anything that could help trace Leah by her birthday, they should call police urgently on 101 quoting reference 43190049929. Or they can remain anonymous and call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. There is a £5,000 reward.