Will search for missing Milton Keynes girl Leah Croucher shift to murder hunt as family admit fears she is dead?
The mother of missing Milton Keynes girl Leah Croucher has tragically spoken out about her belief that “something bad” happened to her daughter and she may not still be alive.
In a tearful interview with This Morning, Claire Croucher and her husband John told how they do not believe Leah vanished deliberately and went into hiding for the past seven months.
“If the worst has happened, I would like my daughter's body back so her family can have a burial and say goodbye – because everybody deserves that,” Claire sobbed.
This is the first time since Leah disappeared in February that her family has allowed themselves to publicly admit the horrible fact that she could have been murdered.
They are still desperately hoping they are proved wrong and Leah may have deliberately disappeared – though there is nothing in her character to suggest she would do that.
Her dad John said: “Truthfully, I do not believe she has run away. She has got a fair amount of money in the bank and that has not been touched. If you are running away, surely you would take something?”
Claire added: “There is no way she has run away. Someone has taken her. Something bad has happened... there are some people out there in the world who know where she is and what has happened to her.”
The family described how Leah comes across as younger than she is and dislikes partying with her friends, preferring to stay at home and read her Harry Potter and Twilight vampire books.
Her mum also spoke publicly for the first time about her daughter's relationship with a 27-year-old man who Leah's protective brother Haydon had accused of “grooming” her.
Claire said: “We were not aware of a relationship before she went missing. We've found out since that she was seeing somebody but that person has been spoken to.”
Police have previously confirmed there was no reason to suspect the man.
But the head of the police investigation, DS Andy Howard, told This Morning: “There were in Leah's life some anxieties and some things that were concerning her, worrying her. Whether these anxieties were any different to what many teenagers go through at that stage is difficult to say.”
This Morning put investigative journalist and former police officer Mark Williams-Thomas on the case. He visited Leah's family home in Emerson Valley and spoke to DS Howard.
Mark said: “Leah's case IS unusual. The police have been baffled. People do not just vanish. I am going to try and piece together what has happened to Leah.”
He is now convinced the vital clue lies in what Leah did the evening BEFORE she seemingly vanished into thin air while working to work along Milton Keynes roads and footpaths on the morning of February 15.
It was Valentine's Day and the then 19-year-old returned from work as normal, changed into jogging bottoms and told her parents she was popping out to see a friend for a “catch up”. But she was not being truthful and did not turn up at the friend's house.
Mark is appealing for information about where Leah went on Valentine's night between leaving home at 6pm and returning at 7.15pm.
“If we get the answer to that, it will solve this case,” he said.
That night, Leah was wearing a very distinctive long-sleeved top with the words 'I solemnly swear I am up to no good' on the front. We are asking you to study the photos of an identical top, along with the joggers, to see if it triggers a memory.
DS Howard said; “I find it hard to believe there is somebody out there who doesn't know what is going on with Leah – somebody she had at least confided in about some concerns she might have had or what potential plan, or what her movements were.”
Anybody with information should call police on 101 quoting reference 43190049929 or Crimestoppers anonymously and free on 0800 555 111.
Even if your information seems trivial, you will be treated with respect and taken seriously.
There is a £5,000 reward.