Leah Croucher inquest to open after police and probation admit failings

An inquest into the death of Leah Croucher will open on Wednesday after police and the Probation Service admitted failings and “lost opportunities” in the case.

The 19-year-old disappeared after leaving her home in Milton Keynes to walk to work on February 15 2019 and no trace of her was found for more than three years despite a large search operation.

The teenager’s body was discovered at a house in the Buckinghamshire city, less than half-a-mile from where she was last seen, following a tip-off from a member of the public.

Leah Croucher missing
Flowers and tributes left in Loxbeare Drive, Furzton, Milton Keynes, after the body of missing teenager Leah Croucher was discovered (Jacob King/PA)

Prime suspect Neil Maxwell was a previously-convicted sex offender who killed himself while on the run from police in April 2019, two months after Ms Croucher vanished.

During a pre-inquest review held at Milton Keynes Coroner’s Court last month, senior coroner Tom Osborne said the inquest would look at admitted failings by the police and Probation Service that had not yet been specified publicly.

Internal reviews had been carried out, and the court heard that a redacted report on the Thames Valley Police investigation included around 250 documents.

Mr Osborne said if the failings had not been sufficiently amended, then a report to prevent future deaths would be ordered, where he could tell organisations, government departments and individuals what action needed to be taken.

Maxwell was the only person with keys to the property in Loxbeare Drive, Furzton, where Ms Croucher’s body was found.

Leah Croucher death
A computer-generated e-fit image of prime suspect Neil Maxwell released by Thames Valley Police (Thames Valley Police/PA)

He was wanted for a sex attack in Newport Pagnell, Milton Keynes, in November 2018, and used false names to evade arrest, as well as stopping using his phone and car.

Officers believe he also lost weight and grew a beard to change his appearance.

In January 2023, Thames Valley Police released a computer generated e-fit of Maxwell as detectives tried to confirm that he had killed Ms Croucher.

The inquest will take place on June 19 and 20 at Milton Keynes Coroner’s Court.