Will Valentine's Day memories help finally find missing Leah Croucher from Milton Keynes?

Valentine's Day on Friday marks the first anniversary of the Leah Croucher mystery that has captured the heart of Milton Keynes.

Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 4:36 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 4:37 pm

It was on Valentine's night 2019 that Leah slipped out for just over an hour, fibbing to her mum that she was going to meet a friend.

And it was on Friday February 15 that she left home early in the morning to walk to work - and has never been seen since.

The Citizen, in a bid to jog people's memories and gather vital clues, is today publishing a comprehensive timeline of events, starting from a year ago.

Leah
Leah

We are urging people to look back on their phones or at their Facebook memories of their Valentine's celebrations in 2019 to see if they remember anything significant at all.

If you do, please call police immediately on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Thursday February 14, 2019, Valentine's Day

8am. Leah, 19, sets off for work as normal. She has an admin job with finance company DFC in Davy Avenue, Knowlhill and walks the two-mile journey to and from work every day, often going via Furzton Lake.

Leah Croucher

5.45pm. Leah walks home from work. Strangely, the location settings on her Samsung phone were switched off in the Furzton Lake area. Nobody knows why. It could be that she was downloading another app that disabled them. But the mobile phone company has confirmed Leah had never turned off her location settings before.

6pm. Leah arrives home from work. She changes into tracksuit bottoms and a long-sleeved top with the logo 'I solemnly swear that I am up to no good' (a quote from her favourite Harry Potter books) and leaves the house on foot. She tells her mum she is going to visit a friend.

7.15pm. Leah arrives home again. She doesn't fancy the meal her mum was cooking so she ordered herself a Chinese takeway. Her mum asks if her friend is okay and Leah replies with a yes.

Leah ate her meal and went to her room to watch a film. Her behaviour that night was totally normal, say her parents

Leah with brother Haydon

Later it was discovered that Leah has not visited the friend. Where did she go for that 75 minutes on Valentine's night? Did she meet anybody?

Friday February 15 2019.

8am. Leah gets up and leaves for work. Her parents have already left for their work. She sets off on her normal route, wearing a black coat, skinny black jeans, black Converse high top shoes and carrying a small black rucksack. Underneath her coat she wears a distinctive grey hoodie, which has the logo of her dad's Stewartby Taekwondo club.

8.13am. CCTV footage shows her walking along Buzzacott Lane in Furzton . That was the last confirmed sighting of Leah.

8.34am. Leah's mobile phone is switched off. It can no longer be traced through the network.

9am. Leah fails to arrive at work

9.30am – 11.15am. Three different witnesses report seeing a girl matching Leah's description walking by Furzton Lake. She was looking “visibly upset” and crying while talking on the phone. She was also text with two thumbs.

Police have never been able to say definitely that this was Leah. However, no other female has ever come forward to say it was them.

6pm Leah fails to return home. She is reported missing

Sunday February 17, 2019.

Police issue a press release saying Leah is missing. They describe her as white, slim, with below shoulder-length brown hair and sometimes wearing glasses.

Tuesday February 19 2019.

Police release the CCTV footage of Leah in Buzzacott Lane. They are becoming “increasingly concerned” for her welfare. Her phone is switched off and cannot be traced and her bank account has not been touched.

For the next few weeks police work tirelessly to find Leah. They make repeated appeals for witnesses and knock on hundreds of doors to see if people saw anything. Divers scour Furzton Lake and fingertip searches are carried out. Leah's family and friends put posters up all over MK, Not a single clue is found.

The route that Leah took to work was visible from busy roads, houses and public areas. Yet nobody saw anything. It is as though she vanished off the face of the earth. Police admit the case is highly unusual – and baffling.

Thursday May 30 2019.

Leah's older brother Haydon, 23, appears at Aylesbury Crown Court charged with making threats to Leah's work colleague, a man called Adnan Choudhury between February 1 2019 and April 30 2019.

The court describes Mr Choudhury as Leah's ex boyfriend. Police agree not to pursue the prosecution because it would not be in the public interest.

Judge Sheridan said of Mr Choudhury: “The police have fully investigated the person you suspected. There is, at this stage, nothing to support your suspicions. You must allow them, however strongly you feel, to do their investigations.”

Mr Choudhury has since denied he was in a relationship with Leah. He told the Citizen : “That is incorrect. There was no romantic relationship. We were colleagues and we were friends... you start talking to each other."

He added: “She was my work colleague. She was my friend. I would like what everyone else wants - to get her home safe. I do wish she is found safe and back with her family.”

Wednesday August 20

It's Leah's 20th birthday. There have been more appeals, dozens of sightings that proved incorrect and more police investigations. But her heartbroken family are still no nearer solving the mystery of what happened to her.

Wednesday September 25

BBC's Crimewatch Roadshow re-enacts Leah's disappearance and appeals for information. It shows the clothing Leah was wearing on the day she vanished. A woman from Milton Keynes watches the show and remembers walking at the Blue Lagoon lake in Bletchley in February and seeing a grey hoodie hanging from a tree near the water. She clearly remembered it had the word 'Stewartby' on the back. She calls police and tells them.

Friday October 9 2019

Police start an intensive search of the Blue Lagoon, scouring the woodlands and sending divers into the lake. The Croucher family wait anxiously for news that would make their worst fears come true.

Friday October 23 2019

The two week search ends. Nothing of any significance has been found, say police. What happened to the hoodie, and whether it did indeed belong to Leah, is still a mystery.

Thursday November 14 2019

The nine month anniversary of Leah's disappearance is approaching. Her brother Haydon, 24, has become increasingly frustrated and depressed. His family seek help from local mental health services for him, but he remains tortured by the fact that his sister is still missing. His mother and sister visit his flat, concerned for his welfare. Tragically they found Haydon had attempted to take his own life. He was rushed to hospital and put on a life support machine.

Saturday November 16 2019

Haydon passes away, with his family at his side. The family's heartbreak is echoed by the entire city.

Wednesday December 25 2019

The family cancel Christmas. The loss of Haydon, coupled with Leah's disappearance, has made life unbearable. Their dad John says they are all tired and broken. The phrase "I've lost two children ... I've lost two," keeps repeating in his head, he says.

Tuesday January 14 2019

Leah's parents speak out to say they are convinced Leah did not run away voluntarily. She was too home-loving and shy and she would never have missed her brother's funeral, they say. They are convinced somebody took her against her will. "We believe that they will catch whoever took Leah. Look out whoever you are. The police are closing in on you. Your time of freedom is limited," warns John Croucher.

Wednesday February 12 2019

Milton Keynes is preparing for Valentine's Day. Leah's parents, John and Claire, have only one wish for the day - for a single clue that will help them find the daughter they love.

Rack your brains. Think back to this week last year. Did you see or hear anything that could solve this heartbreaking mystery? Please act now if you did.