Richard Okorogheye: Police appeal directly to student now missing for 12 days

News

Police investigating the disappearance of Richard Okorogheye have appealed directly to him to get in touch with someone he trusts.

The 19-year-old, who has sickle cell disease, left his family home in Ladbroke Grove, west London, on the evening of Monday March 22.

His worried mum reported him missing two days later.

Richard, a student at Oxford Brookes University, was last seen on CCTV in Loughton, Essex, in the early hours of Tuesday March 23, walking towards Epping Forest.

As searches around the forest enter their third day, the Metropolitan Police issued a fresh appeal, urging Mr Okorogheye 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 Met said after two days of searches around Epping Forest nothing of relevance to the investigation had been found.

It said detectives continue to keep an open mind about his whereabouts.

Met officers have been carrying out searches around Epping Forest, supported by Essex Police.

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 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.

Mr Okorogheye’s mother Evidence Joel previously said that her son had spoken of “struggling to cope” with university pressures and had been shielding during the Covid-19 lockdown.

As someone with sickle cell disease, Mr Okorogheye would only leave the house to go to hospital for regular blood transfusions for his condition.

The first-year business and IT student had been doing his studies online.

Ms Joel also said her son was talking to someone while playing video games on his PlayStation 5 and she fears he may have been groomed online.

She told Sky News: “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.”

She suspects Richard went to see someone he met on the internet who “built (his) confidence and trust”, and vital time was lost early in the investigation as police allegedly “ignored” her.

Ms Joel said when she reported her son was missing police told her ‘if you can’t find your son, how do you expect police officers to find your son for you?’

The Met Police said relatives of missing people should be treated with ‘respect and dignity’ in response to Ms Joel’s claim.