The mother of missing student Richard Okorogheye has said ‘my baby will never come home to his mummy again’ after police found a body matching his description in Epping Forest.
The body, which is yet to be formally identified, was discovered by Essex Police officers in a large pond in the woodland yesterday afternoon, 13 days after the 19-year-old went missing.
Community nurse Evidence Joel, 39, 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.
‘We didn’t give up hope but the conclusion is not what we expected. The police are coming this morning to speak to me properly but they said the body matches Richard’s description.’
Today the Metropolitan Police remain at the scene in Epping Forest, where a cordon has been set up around the Wake Valley pond.
Ms Joel said that officers informed her of the news yesterday 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 has not been seen by his family since 22 March when he left their home in the Ladbroke Grove area of west London
Metropolitan Police officers at the scene at the Wake Valley pond in Epping Forest following the discovery of a man’s body. April 6
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. Police divers had previously been seen in a body of water in the woodland.
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.
‘Richard’s family are being supported by specially trained officers and kept updated with developments. Officers remain at the scene and enquiries continue.’
Evidence 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.
Mr Okorogheye’s mother Evidence Joel previously said the Oxford Brookes University student had spoken of ‘struggling to cope’ with university pressures
Metropolitan Police at the scene at Wake Valley pond in Epping Forest following the discovery of a man’s body. Richard Okorogheye’s mother was told the body matches his description
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
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.
‘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 officers are pictured at Epping Forest after the body was discovered on Monday afternoon
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, Evidence Joel, said waiting for information on her son’s whereabouts had been ‘hell’.
She told the paper: ‘Every day is a nightmare for me now.
‘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.
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
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.
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 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
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
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.