Police and probation have admitted failings in Leah Croucher case – coroner

Police and probation services have admitted failings and “lost opportunities” in the Leah Croucher case, a pre-inquest review has heard.

Ms Croucher, 19, disappeared while walking 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 Milton Keynes less than half-a-mile from where she was last seen after a tip-off from a member of the public.

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

Senior coroner at Milton Keynes Coroner’s Court, Tom Osborne, said the inquest would look at admitted failings by the police and probation services 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.

“Leah was walking to work to carry on a normal day and because of failings, that predator was on the street – he should never have been at large.”

She said “this could have happened to any of us” and that the family wanted to ensure “that this will never happen again”.

They had been “subject to vitriol and trauma” online with social media users falsely accusing family members of being involved in Ms Croucher’s death, she added.

Leah Croucher funeral
A service was held for Leah Croucher at Crownhill Crematorium in Milton Keynes on March 3 2023 (Jacob King/PA)

She told the court she was the only lawyer who would volunteer without a fee.

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.

“If I am satisfied that those failings and concerns have been addressed satisfactorily by further statements from police and probation, then I no longer have that duty to make those points,” he said.

He cautioned “when I get home at night and talk to my wife about my job, she says none of your stories have happy endings”.

Leah Croucher funeral
Mourners looked on as the funeral cortege for Ms Croucher made its way through Milton Keynes (Jacob King/PA)

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

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 be heard on June 19 and 20.

– Advertisement –
– Advertisement –