The Metropolitan police confirmed yesterday that the body found in a lake in Epping Forest is that of 19-year-old missing student Richard Okorogheye.
Richard has been missing since 22 March when he said he was going to see a friend and then took a taxi from his family home in Ladbroke Grove to Loughton in Essex. Essex police made the discovery of a body in an Epping Forest lake on Monday and informed Richard’s mother Evidence Joel that the description matched that of her missing son. Yesterday, Joel was pictured with Richard’s best friend Hala Mohamed, 18, laying flowers in the lake at Epping Forest whilst they awaited formal identification.
The teenager’s cause of death is currently being treated as unexplained, described as ‘pending’ whilst further investigations are carried out. A post-mortem found no evidence of physical trauma or assault, and the police currently do not believe that there was any third-party involvement. Detective Superintendent Danny Gosling thanked officers and the public for their efforts in locating Richard and said: “My deepest sympathies go out to Richard’s family at this incredibly difficult time.”
In a statement yesterday outside New Scotland Yard, he detailed the ongoing extensive enquiry into the teen’s tragic death.
“We are working tirelessly to establish the full circumstances. This includes forensic, medical and specialist enquiries which all take time to complete,” he said.
The Met said that Richard’s disappearance was initially graded low risk because of the many missing person reports of young people it receives every day. Richard was last seen around 30 minutes past midnight on the 23 March walking down Smarts Lane towards Epping Forest. His mother, a community nurse, said she had no idea why her son had travelled to Epping Forest and that she didn’t know if he knew anyone in the area, adding that she feared he had been groomed online.
She revealed that her son, a student at Oxford Brookes, has been “struggling to cope” with his business and IT degree. As someone with sickle cell disease, his family said he had been shielding during lockdown and only left the house for regular blood transfusions at the hospital. Travelling with his phone off and without a bank card or travel pass, his family expressed concern that he had not taken any medication with him for his health condition.
Joel, 39, told the Evening Standard on Tuesday of her devastation that a body has been found. She said: “We thought Richard would be found or would just come home. But he’s not.
“My baby will never come home to his mummy again. He was taken away from me too early. The only child I have. It’s devastating and the last thing I thought I’d hear.”