Police investigating the disappearance of teenager Louise Smith have searched the home of a married couple five minutes walk from her house.
Specialist forensic officers have been seen taking ‘bag loads’ of items including carpet and clothing from the first-floor flat in Havant, Hampshire.
Neighbours said the couple had been arrested last week on suspicion of kidnapping the 16-year-old, who had been staying there in the days before she went missing.
Police found a body in woodland during the hunt for Louise yesterday and confirmed they are treating the death as suspicious.
The teenager has been missing from her home in the Leigh Park area of Havant since the anniversary of VE Day on May 8.
The teenager (pictured) has been missing from her home in the Leigh Park area of Havant, Hampshire, since the anniversary of VE Day on May 8
A police officer enters the property in Leigh Park after a body was found in woodlands yesterday
Specialist forensic officers have been seen taking ‘bag loads’ of items including carpet and clothing from the flat in Havant
Police (pictured today) found a body in woodland during the hunt for Louise yesterday and confirmed they are treating it as suspicious
Police officers guarded the door of the flat owned by the man and woman and forensics officers in white overalls searched inside.
Those living nearby described the couple as ‘quiet’ and said they ‘didn’t get out of the house much’.
It was suggested Louise may have been staying there after she fell out with mother Rebecca Cooper over boyfriend troubles.
One neighbour claimed that on the day Louise vanished the woman posted online: ‘Louise has gone missing… she was supposed to be in my care, she went to the shops for her friends and now she’s missing.’
Meanwhile, another living in the apartment block said on VE Day he saw a ‘red van’ outside the block of flats which a girl got into with bags of clothes.
Rebecca Cooper (pictured), 39, changed her social media picture to one of her daughter and posted information about her on Wednesday
Police forces at the scene today where a body was found in the search for the 16-year-old girl who has been missing since VE Day
Pictured: A map showing the whereabouts of Louise Smith prior to police discovering a body
One middle aged resident said: ‘We had sniffer dogs yesterday. Over the past week we’ve had vans arriving and taking clothing, carpets – basically everything. There’s been a huge police presence and they’ve been bringing loads out.
‘The last post [the woman] had up on was ‘[Louise] has gone missing, she was supposed to be in my care, she went to the shops for her friends and now she’s missing’.’
Describing the couple, she said: ‘I never had any complaints against him, he’d always say hi but it was only general chit chat.’
She described the man as having a tattoo and sleeve, spacers and a beard while the woman was short, large and had brunette hair.
Another neighbour, an elderly woman, said: ‘All these vans started turning up, taking bag loads of stuff from carpet, bedding, clothes.
‘The couple have always been very nice to me. They are very quiet and I don’t think they got out the house much.’
One neighbour claimed Louise fell out with her mother and was staying at the address.
The man in his 20s said: ‘She was staying at this flat at the time of her disappearance.’
The teenager’s last reported sighting was around midday on May 8 on Somborne Drive
Louise lived with her mother Ms Cooper (left), 39, and stepfather Richard O’Shea (right)
Another claimed: ‘On VE Day I saw a red van outside the flats and a girl getting into it with bundles of clothes.
‘I reported this to police as it didn’t feel right… I can’t say if it was definitely her but it was a girl around her age.’
Last weekend police released a 29-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman on bail after they were arrested on suspicion of kidnap.
Louise’s last reported sighting was around midday on May 8 – VE Day – five minutes walk from her home.
It is understood she may have been heading to a skatepark three miles away in nearby Emsworth and had told friends she would be back later.
Officers have been scouring the local area including woodland and a nearby lake and found a body yesterday.
A Hampshire Police spokesman said formal identification had not yet taken place but Louise’s family had been informed and were being supported by specialist officers.
Louise lived with her mother Rebecca Cooper, 39, and stepfather Richard O’Shea and was described by a neighbour as ‘vulnerable’.
A dog walker talks to a police officer at the scene in Havant Thicket, where a body was found during the search for Louise Smith
A spokesman for Hampshire Constabulary said last night: ‘Officers searching for missing Louise have discovered a body in Havant.
‘Formal identification has not yet taken place but Louise’s family have been informed and are being supported by specialist officers.
‘We are treating the death as suspicious and are continuing to investigate the circumstances.’
Detective Chief Superintendent Scott Mackechnie said: ‘Officers located a body in an area of woodland in Havant Thicket.
‘We know that news of this discovery will be very upsetting for the community, so I want to reassure you that we will be working around the clock to establish what has happened.
‘We will endeavour to provide you with further updates as soon as we can, but in the meantime we’re asking the community not to speculate on the circumstances and instead provide all information to the police in the first instance, as this is crucial to helping our inquiries.
‘Thank you to everyone in the community who has offered their support so far and has assisted us with this investigation.’
Officers cordon off the area today after a body is found in the woodland area in Havant, Hampshire
The teenager was thought to be wearing black jeans, a black and white striped T-shirt, black trainers and a black coat with a fur hood when she went missing.
Friends said Louise had said she would only be gone for a short time and was expected to return home to spend the weekend with her boyfriend.
Worried friends and relatives also set up a website for people to share messages and to help co-ordinate the local search for Louise.
Kat Foy, who created a community group dedicated to finding Louise, had previously said: ‘Louise is part of a missing child investigation, headed by Hampshire Police. The country is in crisis and we remain on lockdown.
‘We ask at this stage that you respect the police who have not requested the public to do their own searches. They have asked if you have information to contact them.
‘They are in the important part of their search, the police are the experts at this stage. Please refrain from doing your own searches it will hinder the police. When they require the public to search they will request this, we are here to raise awareness.’
Police earlier released a CCTV image of the teenager visiting a Tesco store in Greywell Road on the evening of May 7
Louise’s mobile was last traced on Friday at 2pm at Emsworth skate park but the signal had not been tracked since.
Her family speculated the teenager was not going to switch her phone on, knowing the police could trace her.
Earlier this week Hampshire Constabulary said mobile phone footage of VE Day celebrations filmed in Havant could be key to their investigation.
The force urged anyone with footage of celebrations on their doorsteps or in their neighbourhood in Havant to come forward in case it gave them clues about Louise’s disappearance.
Anyone with information should call police on 101, quoting 44200163113, or you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers 100 per cent anonymously on 0800 555 111.