Detectives investigating the disappearance of Leah Croucher three and a half years ago have launched a murder investigation after discovering human remains at an address in Milton Keynes.
Thames Valley police made the discovery along with other items, including a rucksack, at a property in Loxbeare Drive, Furzton, on Monday after receiving a tipoff from a member of the public.
The force has already turned its missing persons inquiry into a murder investigation, but it is understood it is likely to take some time to formally identify the remains.
The property at which the remains were discovered is less than a mile from Croucher’s home and opposite a lake that was at the centre of an earlier police appeal.
Officers appealed to residents who frequented the area around Furzton Lake in March, saying they were particularly keen to identify a figure dressed in black seen in images of the lake.
Croucher went missing on 15 February 2019 at the age of 19, triggering a large-scale investigation involving extensive searches and house-to-house inquiries.
The head of crime for Thames Valley police, DCS Ian Hunter, said: “Following a call to police on Monday, we attended an address and located items of concern within the property.
“We are dealing with a very difficult scene but we can now confirm that we have discovered a number of items that are linked to Leah, and as such, we have now launched a murder investigation, led by our major crime unit.
“Leah’s family have been kept updated and continue to be supported by officers, and we are urging the public and media to think of her family and not to speculate further while this investigation is in the early stages.
“We will provide further updates when we are able to do so.
“There remains a scene-watch in place at the address while this investigation continues, and we are committed to ensuring that our inquiries at the scene are thorough.
“We have committed hundreds of officers and staff to the search for Leah over the last three and a half years, reviewing 1,200 hours of CCTV and conducted more than 4,000 house-to-house inquiries and offered several rewards for information to lead us to Leah.
“The call from the member of the public that we received on Monday was the first occasion that we were alerted to this address, and we thank them for contacting us immediately to report their concerns.
“Our thoughts remain with Leah’s family and friends, and we will continue to offer them all the support that they need.”
Police confirmed to the Guardian that no arrests have been made.
Croucher was last spotted at about 8.15am on Buzzacott Lane, Furzton, on 15 February 2019.
Her older half-brother, Haydon, took his own life at the age of 24, nine months after she went missing.
Her mother, Claire Croucher, previously said her daughter’s disappearance had “destroyed our entire family”, adding that if she had been abducted or killed they would hold the culprit responsible for Haydon’s death as well. “He obviously, as everybody knows, he couldn’t cope, he found it very difficult,” she said.
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