Richard Okorogheye: Divers search lake in Epping Forest for missing teen, 19, as heartbroken mum says he is in ‘hell’
SPECIALIST police divers are searching a pond for a teenage student who has been missing for nearly two weeks.
Richard Okorogheye, 19, vanished after telling his mum he was "struggling to cope" with lockdown.
The Oxford Brookes student, who has sickle cell disease, was last seen by his family on March 22 after leaving their home in Ladbroke Grove, West London.
Richard took a taxi to Loughton, Essex and was last seen on CCTV near Epping Forest on March 23.
Police officers, dogs and divers have been scouring the area for four days, but said they had found "nothing of relevance".
His mum, Evidence Joel has spoken of her "hell" as she waits for news of her son.
She fears Richard met someone through Playstation 5 who "gained his trust" as cops continue to search for the missing student.
Ms Joel, 39, told The Guardian: "“It’s very difficult. It’s hell.
“Not knowing where Richard is, with his health condition as well, it’s a complete nightmare.
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.
It's hell. Not knowing where Richard is, with his health condition as well, it’s a complete nightmare.
"Because I want to go out there, to do something to look for him, search for him, anything. But I can’t."
Speaking on Sky News last week, Ms Joel said she feared Richard had met someone through Playstation 5 who "gained his trust".
She said: "I'm shocked he even knows where Loughton is, as I don't even know where that place is.
"I think he went to meet somebody. Definitely. Richard cannot go there. Especially at that time in the morning… someone was waiting for Richard."
When asked if he had perhaps met someone online, Evidence said "most definitely" and said previously that Richard would often be playing on his Playstation.
She said he heard him laughing and that he was "very happy" when he played his games.
She continued: "Definitely, he was talking to someone. Someone that he trusted and was fond of. Maybe the person gave him confidence.
"Somehow knew his aspirations, his interests, so he confided in that person, built confidence and trust."
He had been shielding due to a sickle cell disease since the pandemic took hold last year.
The teen said he was going out on March 22.
I think he went to meet somebody. Definitely. Richard cannot go there. Especially at that time in the morning… someone was waiting for Richard.
After leaving his home in Ladbroke Grove he was seen walking in Kensington, at around 8.40pm.
It was thought the last footage of him was from the 23 bus southbound near his home.
CCTV footage shows he was wearing all black and had a black satchel bag with a white Adidas logo, worn across his lower back.
But now officers say he was seen in the area of Epping Forest hours later – and before he was reported missing.
Cops have established that Richard took a taxi to Loughton in Essex.
He was then captured on CCTV walking alone along Smarts Lane, Loughton towards Epping Forest at 12.39am on Tuesday morning.
The Met said detectives were working around the clock to trace his next steps after this sighting and had begun searches in and around the forest as well as carrying out door-to-door enquiries.
They were also working alongside specialist search teams and colleagues from Essex Police.
Detective Chief Inspector Nicki Beecher, from the Met's Area West Public Protection Unit, said: "It has now been nine days since Richard was last seen in person and we remain as committed as ever to locating him and bringing him home to his family.
"Our officers are working extremely hard to piece together the facts in order to build a picture of Richard's movements on the evening of Monday March 22.
"Latest information suggests he was last seen in Loughton in Essex and we are now focusing our attention here, with specialist search officers from across the Met brought in to assist.
"Our enquiries also continue in the Ladbroke Grove, W10 area where local officers have been carrying out search patrols and also community patrols to gather information from local residents.
"I would once again like to renew our appeal to the public for any information which may assist with our enquiries.
"If you may have seen Richard – particularly in the Loughton area – or have any information at all, please contact police."
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 quoting 21MIS008134.
As someone with sickle cell disease, Mr Okorogheye would only leave the house to go to hospital for regular blood transfusions for his condition.
Richard's mum Evidence Joel has called for him to come home.
She said: “Richard, we love you and miss you very much, please can you come home.
"We aren’t angry at you. We just want to know that you’re okay.
“For anyone reading this, we are desperately missing our son. If you know anything or know where he might be, please come forward and speak to the police.”
She previously told Sky News: “All he said to me was, 'Mummy, I'm going to see my friend'.
He's everything to me, he's the reason why I live, the reason I exist.
“I trusted him, I had no doubt or no reason to ask him further questions.
"It's my baby, it's my treasure. He's my oxygen, he's my crown. He's everything to me, he's the reason why I live, the reason I exist.
"Right now I'm empty, there is nothing to look forward to. He's taken my breath away from me."
The mum had returned home from a nursing shift and assumed her son was in his room.
It was only when she knocked on his door after cooking his favourite dinner that she realised something was wrong.
After a locksmith helped her gain entry to the bedroom, she found Richard missing with his wallet, bus pass and bank card left behind.
None of Richard’s friends saw him that night or any night since he disappeared.
She believes he is being "held against his will" as he didn't even take a jacket or his vital medication.
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