SICK trolls prank called Richard Okorogheye’s best pal claiming they had found his body – before the teen was found by police.
Hala Mohamad, 18, today revealed how she was tormented with fake updates after her friend Richard went missing last month.
The 19-year-old student, who had sickle cell disease, went missing from his home in Ladbroke Grove, west London, on the evening of March 22. His body was found in Epping Forest, Essex on April 5.
Richard’s family and friends issued desperate pleas for information following his disappearance – though best pal Hala said that fraudsters had contacted her with false updates.
'GAVE ME HOPE'
She told the BBC Radio 1Xtra ‘If You Don’t Know’ podcast: “It was crazy.
“Every day I'd get calls and texts and people adding me to group chats and people DM’ing me on Insta, on Twitter, people finding my Snap.
"And then there was prank calls, really stupid prank calls of people saying I've seen Richard, or I've found his body.
"In the moment it was all too much.
"I would text my friends and be like 'I can't handle this anymore, it's too much for me’, because in a stupid way it gave me hope.”
She added: “I wasn't in the best shape, I'm still not. I'm still trying to push past it.
"I could barely sleep because every time I'd sleep I'd get a call and think even though it's no caller ID maybe it's the police or maybe someone did find something.
"I had to answer every call that I could.”
Richard’s heartbroken mum Evidence Joel has since claimed she was “fobbed off” by police when she reported him missing. The Independent Office for Police Conduct is currently investigating her complaints.
Asked about the police's handling of the case, Ms Mohamad added: "They could've checked CCTV earlier, they could've taken us seriously earlier instead of just saying 'he's an adult, he's fine, he'll be with a friend'."
Announcing the probe on Monday, IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said: "Our thoughts are with Richard's family and friends and all those affected by this tragic loss. We have spoken to his family and explained our role.
"Our investigation will establish whether the police responded appropriately to the concerns raised that Richard was missing."
He added: "We will also consider whether Richard's or his mother's ethnicity played a part in the way the initial reports of his disappearance were handled."
Ms Joel said her son had spoken of "struggling to cope" with university pressures and had been shielding during the pandemic.
Richard would only leave the house to go to hospital for regular blood transfusions for his condition.
Following news of his death, Ms Joel described how her heart "has been ripped out", adding: "It's been devastating, we are all in shock."
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