Best friend of missing student Richard Okorogheye says she ‘can’t eat or sleep’ as 19-year-old’s loved ones await formal identification of body found in Epping Forest
- Police searching for missing student Richard Okorogheye found a body Monday
- Mother was informed that the body ‘matches’ the description of Mr Okorogheye
- Missing Richard Okorogheye, 19, last seen on CCTV, Loughton, Essex, March 23
The best friend of missing student Richard Okorogheye says she ‘can’t eat or sleep’ as the teenager’s loved ones anxiously await formal identification of the body found in Epping Forest earlier this week.
Hala Mohamed, who has known Richard, 19, since birth, admitted she was struggling to come to terms with the events of the last two weeks, since he disappeared after leaving his family home in the Ladbroke Grove area of west London.
Richard and Hala, 18, a Fashion and Business Management student at the University of Creative Arts, attended the same school and sixth form and even lived in the same apartment building.
As friends and family wait to hear the results of a post-mortem examination on the body, which was discovered in a pond on Monday and matches Richard’s description, Hala told MyLondon today: ‘This is the worst feeling ever.
‘I can’t sleep, I can’t eat. He was everything to me, it’s a shock to the system, I don’t think I’ve processed everything.’
Hala Mohamed, who has known Richard, 19, since birth (pictured together), admitted she was struggling to come to terms with the events of the last two weeks, since he disappeared after leaving his family home in the Ladbroke Grove area of west London
A post-mortem examination on a body which matches Richard’s description is taking place today
Her comments come after Richard’s mother Evidence Joel yesterday admitting she was coming to terms with the prospect of not seeing her son again.
The community nurse told the Evening Standard: ‘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.
‘I can’t even describe the feeling. 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.’
Speaking to reporters outside Scotland Yard yesterday, Metropolitan Police Detective Superintendent Danny Gosling said: ‘Yesterday afternoon we were informed by colleagues from Essex Police that a body had been found in a lake in the Epping Forest area.
‘Whilst we wait for formal identification, we have spoken to Richard’s family to update them with this latest development.
‘Our specially trained officers remain with the family as they have done throughout this inquiry.’
Mr Gosling said police remain in the area to carry out further searches as they try to piece together what happened to Mr Okorogheye.
‘The post-mortem examination will take place shortly and we are also waiting for formal identification,’ he said.
‘This is an extensive inquiry, and we are working tirelessly to establish the full circumstances. This includes forensic medical and specialist inquiries, which all take time to complete.’
Mr Okorogheye has not been seen by his family since 22 March when he left their home in the Ladbroke Grove area of west London
Ms Joel said that officers informed her of the news on Monday evening, as investigations remain underway to formally identify the body.
‘Oh God, they said the description matches his, but we’ll go in tomorrow to find out,’ Ms Joel told MyLondon.
Mr Okorogheye, who has sickle cell disease, left his family home in the Ladbroke Grove area of west London on the evening of March 22, and was reported missing two days later.
He was last seen on CCTV in Loughton, Essex, in the early hours of Tuesday March 23, walking towards Epping Forest.
Metropolitan Police said in a statement last night: ‘On the afternoon of Monday, 5 April, the Met was informed by colleagues from Essex Police that the body of a man had been found in a pond in Epping Forest.
‘Enquiries are underway to identify the body. Detectives investigating the disappearance of 19-year-old Richard Okorogheye are aware.
A body was discovered in a pond in Epping Forest on the fifth day of police searches. The scene at Wake Valley pond in Epping Forest is pictured
Metropolitan Police officers at the scene at the Wake Valley pond car park in Epping Forest. April 6
A large area has been cordoned off by police following the discovery of a body on Monday
Police tape surrounds Wake Valley pond in Epping Forest following the discovery of a man’s body
‘Richard’s family are being supported by specially trained officers and kept updated with developments. Officers remain at the scene and enquiries continue.’
Ms Joel has previously said that her son had spoken of ‘struggling to cope’ with university pressures and had been shielding during the Covid-19 lockdown.
It comes after the mother of missing teenager has said her life is a ‘complete nightmare’ in the wake of her son’s disappearance two weeks ago.
Ms Joel has previously stated she fears that her son may have met someone through PlayStation 5 who ‘gained his trust’.
‘I’m shocked. I’m shocked he even knows where Loughton is, as I don’t even know where that place is,’ she told Sky News.
Police officers are pictured at Epping Forest after the body was discovered on Monday afternoon
‘I think he went to meet somebody. Definitely. Richard cannot go there. Especially at that time in the morning … someone was waiting for Richard.’
On Monday morning the Metropolitan Police said the search of Epping Forest woodland was continuing for the fifth day.
Police divers were deployed and were seen in one of the areas of water in the woodland in north-east London. A body was discovered Monday afternoon.
Speaking to The Guardian in a previous interview, Mr Okorogheye’s mother said waiting for information on her son’s whereabouts had been ‘hell’.
She told the paper: ‘Every day is a nightmare for me now.
A map showing the movements of missing Richard Okorogheye, 19, last seen on CCTV, Loughton, Essex, March 23
The 19-year-old, who has sickle cell disease, was last seen in CCTV footage recorded near Epping Forest the day after his disappearance
‘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 needing to remain at home in case he makes contact.
Initial police inquiries identified Mr Okorogheye leaving his home address and heading in the direction of Ladbroke Grove at around 8.30pm.
In a previously confirmed sighting on Monday March 22, Mr Okorogheye was seen boarding the number 23 bus southbound in Ladbroke Grove at 8.44pm.
Police divers have been seen searching a pond in Epping Forest as part of the investigation into the disappearance of 19-year-old student Richard Okorogheye. Pictured: April 2
Police search teams search a pond in Epping Forest. A confirmed sighting of him in Loughton, Essex had police searching Epping Forest. April 1
Police divers were deployed to search ponds in the woodland in north-east London. April 1
CCTV footage shows he was wearing all black and had a black satchel bag with a white Adidas logo, worn across his lower back.
Police said further inquiries have established that he then took a taxi journey from the W2 area of London to a residential street in Loughton.
He was captured on CCTV walking alone on Smarts Lane, Loughton, towards Epping Forest at 12.39am on Tuesday March 23.
On Thursday, the force said Mr Okorogheye’s phone has not been in use since his disappearance.
Essex Police search team pictured in Epping Forest, north-east London. April 1
An area is cordoned off as police search teams work their way through woodland in Epping Forest on April 1
Police teams prepare to search an area in Epping Forest on horseback on April 1
As someone with sickle cell disease, Mr Okorogheye would only leave the house to go to hospital for regular blood transfusions for his condition.
She told The Guardian the current cold weather, which could cause Mr Okorogheye substantial pain, was a major concern.
She said: ‘We know he didn’t take a jacket when he went out. That’s really worrying.’
On March 22, Mr Okorogheye was seen boarding the 23 bus southbound in Ladbroke Grove at 8.44pm. CCTV shows he was wearing all black and a black satchel bag with white Adidas logo
Mr Okorogheye was seen boarding the 23 southbound bus in Ladbroke Grove at 8.44pm on March 22
Ms Joel added she had no idea as to what could have prompted Mr Okorogheye’s disappearance, and called on his online community of friends to contact police if they have any information.
She also issued a message to her son, telling him: ‘Everybody misses you. And we love you very much. We want you home. Please come home.’
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 quoting 21MIS008134.
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