Dead sex offender named as prime suspect in Leah Croucher murder case

Neil Maxwell, who killed himself in 2019, suspected over disappearance of woman who went missing earlier that year.

Leah Croucher, who went missing in February 2019. Photograph: Thames Valley Police/PA

The prime suspect in the murder of Leah Croucher, who disappeared in February 2019, has been named as the convicted sex offender Neil Maxwell, who killed himself in April that year.

Thames Valley police launched a murder investigation after discovering human remains at an address in Milton Keynes on Wednesday. They made the discovery at a property less than a mile from Croucher’s home after receiving a tipoff from a member of the public.

Police said Maxwell was the only person with keys to the house where remains were found near the 19-year-old’s possessions in Loxbeare Drive, Furzton, Milton Keynes, while the owners were away.

Neil Maxwell.
Neil Maxwell.

He had been employed by the homeowner to carry out some maintenance on the property. The human remains were found in the house’s loft, Hunter said.

Maxwell had previous convictions for sexual offences against women and was wanted in connection with a sexual assault in Newport Pagnell in November 2018, the force said. He was found dead on 20 April 2019.

DCS Ian Hunter said in a statement: “I cannot even begin to imagine what it is like for Leah’s parents and family, for three years and eight months not knowing what has happened to their daughter and loved one. All of the investigation team who are working on this case are dedicated to finding the truth for Leah’s family.”

Croucher vanished while walking to work at a finance company and was last seen on CCTV just after 8.15am on 15 February 2019 a short distance from where she was found.

On Friday morning her parents visited the property where her remains were found and left flowers along with a handwritten note saying “our darkest fears have come true”.

“We have so missed you for so long already,” the note read. “The future looks so bleak now we know we will never see your smile or hear your laughter again. We will cherish your memories for ever.”

Hunter said Croucher’s family had thanked the force for its efforts to find her in the past three years and eight months. In a statement read on their behalf, the family said: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank Thames Valley police for all their efforts over the past three years and eight months.

“We believe that they could not have done anything differently, they have always approached every conversation with dignity and compassion. As a family, we ask that everyone respects our privacy as well as our immediate family, at what is one of the most difficult times of our lives.”

Asked how long the human remains had been in the house and where they were found, Hunter told a press conference in Milton Keynes: “Of course, we have got an ongoing investigation so we will need to establish some of those facts. I will reveal today that the rucksack containing Leah’s possessions and the human remains were found in the loft – that is what is making this so complex and challenging for us to be able to work through.”

Hundreds of officers and staff have been involved in the investigation into Croucher’s disappearance, scouring 1,200 hours of CCTV and carrying out 4,000 house-to-house inquiries. The search has involved specialist search teams, mounted police, dogs, the marine unit and the national police air service.

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