Where is Richard Okorogheye? Missing student with sickle cell disease went to 'visit friend' and never returned
The police divers are searching a pond for a teenage student who has been missing for nearly two weeks. Boy's mother says her life has become a "complete nightmare" following his disappearance as she urges her son to return home.
Richard Okorogheye, 19, was reported missing on March 24, 2021, two days after he left his family home in the Ladbroke Grove area of West London. The teenager, who suffers from a sickle cell disease, had been shielding since the onset of the pandemic last March 2020 and only left the house for medical reasons. He had recently told his mother, Evidence Joel, that he was “struggling to cope”. Richard did not take his medication or any money when he left his home on the evening of March 22, 2021.
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Okorogheye was last seen on CCTV footage in Loughton, Essex, in the early hours of Tuesday, March 23, 2021, walking towards Epping Forest. As searches around the forest continued the Metropolitan Police issued a fresh appeal last week, urging him to contact the force or someone he trusts.
Detective Superintendent Danny Gosling, head of the Met’s Central West Public Protection Unit, said: “People can go missing from home for any of number of reasons. Our job is not to cast judgment but to work to find them and bring them home safely. My message to Richard is clear: our only concern is your safety. You are not in trouble and have done nothing wrong. If you read or hear this message we would ask you to contact us, or someone you trust, to let us know you are safe. Your loved ones, and many other people who you do not even know, are very concerned. I would also like to thank the public for their continued support in sharing our appeals, checking doorbell and dash cam footage and passing on any information. As our efforts to find Richard continue, the eyes and ears of ordinary members of the public will be essential tools in our search.”
The police department stated that searches around Epping Forest, supported by Essex Police, have so far been unsuccessful in finding anything relevant to the investigation, but officers are keeping an open mind about the whereabouts of Richard. The department also shared an appeal asking the public for any information that was added to the many others shared by Richard’s friends on social media. The appeal has been shared thousands of times, including by singer Dua Lipa, photographer Misan Harriman and author Bonnie Greer.
His mother Evidence Joel said Richard told her he was going to visit a friend’s house and would be back later, but he never returned home. None of his friends said they had seen him that night. The police reported that there has been “no activity” on Richard’s mobile phone. CCTV footage shows him wearing all black and had a black satchel bag with a white Adidas logo, worn across his lower back. He was captured on CCTV walking alone on Smarts Lane, Loughton, towards Epping Forest at 12.39 am on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. A day before that he was seen boarding a No 23 bus headed southbound in Ladbroke Grove at 8.44 pm.
His mother said he had never talked about anyone from Loughton or Epping Forest to her. He was regularly on PlayStation and it was possible he may have planned to met someone from that area he knew online. She implored anyone from his online community of friends who might know anything to contact the police.
Joel, 39, a community nurse, asked the public to remain vigilant and report any sightings. “It’s very difficult. It’s hell,” she told the Guardian. “Not knowing where Richard is, with his health condition as well, it’s a complete nightmare.” Joel has spent sleepless nights and anxious days by the phone waiting for news. “Every day is a nightmare for me now. The days are going by. Time is ticking and I don’t know what to expect,” she said. “I feel completely helpless. Helpless, and also, sorry to use this word, but I feel useless. Because I want to go out there, to do something to look for him, search for him, anything. But I can’t,” she said of having to wait at home in case he makes contact.