The desperate parents of a missing teenager who vanished more than a month ago are hoping a £5,000 reward “will start the trail to find our beautiful Leah”.
Claire and John Croucher spoke of their pain since their 19-year-old daughter Leah disappeared on her walk to work from her home in Quantock Crescent, Emerson Valley, Milton Keynes, on February 15.
Her father said he is living his “worst nightmare” while her mother said: “It doesn’t matter what we do, we don’t feel any better. It’s the last thing we think about at night, I wake up in the morning and I’m already crying. I just feel empty.”
Leah was last seen on CCTV at about 8.15am in Buzzacott Lane, Furzton, Milton Keynes, on February 15, according to Thames Valley Police.
Investigators say she generally took a number of different routes to work, including sometimes alongside Furzton Lake.
Mr Croucher described her as someone who is “very quiet, stays in her room, not really an outgoing type of person”, while her mother said she is “not like a normal teenager” and would avoid going on nights-out to the pub, instead preferring reading or watching DVDs in her room.
Leah’s family have seen an outpouring of public support since she disappeared that they say makes them feel “humble but so grateful”, including MK Dons Football Club running the police appeal on their big screens on match days.
It is hoped that the £5,000 reward, given by an anonymous donor, will encourage someone to come forward with key information.
Mrs Croucher said: “We just hope it prompts somebody to remember and have the bravery to come forward.
“I don’t know, maybe they’re scared they’ll upset Leah or upset her friends if they know where she is, but they need to pick up the phone and they need to call and tell us how to find her. Because we’ve tried everything and we’re running out of options.
“It’s important because we need that one person to come forward and call to tell us how to find Leah, where she is and where she’s been.
“They just need to be brave and pick up the phone and not worry about who they are going to upset. There are so many people worried about Leah and we all need to find out where she is.”
The massive police hunt for the teenager has involved specialist police search teams, the mounted section, police dogs, the marine unit and the National Police Air Service.
Chief Inspector Neil Kentish said a “huge” team is also sifting through CCTV. Investigators released two new pictures of her on Wednesday.
Avid reader Leah had competed internationally in Taekwando but her father said “she is not a fighter”.
Her parents last saw her on the night of Valentine’s Day when they went to bed. They left for work while she was still asleep the following morning.
She has not used her bank account or phone since she was reported missing.
Her mother said: “We just want her to come home. I just want to give her such a big hug.”
Mr Kentish said: “The £5,000 reward, which has been offered by a local donor, is significant and shows the level of affection the community has for Leah.
“Frankly, our officers who are investigating Leah’s disappearance have never dealt with a case like this before. It is extremely rare for someone to go missing without leaving a trace, but this is what has happened to Leah.
“It is clear the devastating impact that Leah’s disappearance is having on her family and friends. I still believe someone has information about her whereabouts, but for some reason they have not provided that information to police. I urge you to do the right thing and come forward.”
Appeal banners will be put up across Milton Keynes at the weekend.
In a statement issued through Thames Valley Police, Mr and Mrs Croucher said: “Tell us how and where to find our daughter. Please. We need to know if she is alive or dead.”
Addressing Leah, her mother said: “We miss you so much. If someone or something has upset you we can sort it out together as a family. Please come back to us. Your dad and I are worried sick about you. Everyone is. We want you here, safe with us. We just want to give you a big cuddle. Come home please, we love you.”
Leah is white, slim with below shoulder length brown hair and sometimes wears glasses. She was wearing a black coat, skinny black jeans, black Converse high top shoes and was carrying a small black rucksack when she was last seen.
Anyone with information can contact police via a dedicated website for the investigation https://mipp.police.uk/operation/43H218A55-PO1/ or by calling 101 or visiting a police station, quoting investigation number 43190049929.