Leah Croucher: Parents talk of trolling three years after disappearance – BBC


The parents of a woman missing for three years have spoken of the "upsetting and hurtful" rumours about their teenage daughter spread by trolls on social media.
Leah Croucher was last seen on CCTV on 15 February 2019 in Milton Keynes.
Her parents said it was "soul-destroying" not knowing what happened, and people setting up fake accounts claiming to be Leah was "vile".
A £20,000 reward has been offered for information.
Ms Croucher was 19 when she was last seen by her parents at the family home in Quantock Crescent, at 22:00 GMT on 14 February.
The next day, CCTV footage showed her walking down Buzzacott Lane in Furzton at 08:16. She was thought to be going to work, but she never arrived.
No trace of Ms Croucher has been found.
Speaking on the third anniversary of her disappearance, her mother, Claire Croucher, said: "I think it's actually getting harder… at the beginning I had lots of people around me saying she's going to show up any minute, it's all going to be fine, but obviously three years down the line we're still totally unaware of what happened to her."
She said there were now "even more unanswered questions as we've had a lot longer to think… it's soul-destroying".
Both she and her husband spoke about the many rumours circulating on social media about what might have happened to their daughter.
"The nastiness comes out," her father John Croucher said.
"There are some people who are genuinely trying to help, but then you get these people who want to focus on rubbish that just isn't true."
In a joint statement released for the anniversary appeal, Mr and Mrs Croucher said: "Our family read everything that is written about Leah, both in the press and on social media.
"We are aware of the fake profiles that have been made claiming that Leah was pregnant and has run away… aware of the speculation that she is buried on farmland on Eaton Bray.
"We find this upsetting, hurtful and disrespectful. None of this is true, all of it is vicious rumour and speculation.
"We would appreciate that if people have nothing pleasant to say, that they say nothing at all.
"Our daughter has done nothing to deserve this and neither have her family, who are forced to tolerate this vile behaviour."
Det Ch Insp Andy Howard, who has led the investigation, asked people to be mindful of what they were saying on social media, and to speak to police if they had information.
He said officers "have had to speak to a small number of people directly" about what he described as "malicious messages" and one person had been given a police caution.
"Essentially they created a fake profile pretending to be Leah," he said.
"Think about the impact that must have on Leah's family to receive a message from someone purporting to be their daughter or their sister."
On the anniversary, police have issued an image that had previously been circulating on social media in the continuing search for Ms Croucher.
A number of people had reported possibly seeing her "apparently upset" by Furzton Lake between 09:30 and 11:15 on the day she disappeared.
A distant and blurred photo has emerged showing a person at the lake wearing clothing that could be similar to that worn by Ms Croucher on that day.
Det Ch Insp Howard said although it was "impossible to say" if the picture was of Ms Croucher, it was the first time reports of someone near the lake could be corroborated.
He admitted the case remained "bewildering", as there was so little evidence of what might have happened to Ms Croucher.
"We are essentially no further forward in terms of Leah's movements," he said.
"Again, I appeal to the public. Somebody out there… knows something. Please, please come forward as the family deserves nothing less."
Asked if Ms Croucher could still be alive, he said: "The lack of information of what's happened to Leah is actually what gives me, and allows me to retain, some hope; we retain an open mind about what has happened.
"At this stage there is no evidence or credible information to indicate that somebody else is involved in Leah's disappearance."
Appealing for information, or for their daughter to get in touch, the Crouchers said: "We love you too much to give up and stop looking for answers."
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