POLICE searching for a missing teenager who vanished after taking a taxi to Epping Forest have found a man’s body in a pond today.
Richard Okorogheye, 19, disappeared two weeks ago after telling his mum he was “struggling to cope” with lockdown.
The body of a man has been found in a pond in Epping Forest, the Met was informed by Essex Police this afternoon.
Richard’s family has been told of the tragic discovery and are being supported by specialist officers.
The Oxford Brookes student’s mum, Evidence Joel, told My London: “Oh God, they said the description matches his, but we’ll go in tomorrow to find out.”
Richard, who has sickle cell disease, was last seen by his family on March 22 after leaving his home in Ladbroke Grove, West London.
He took a taxi to Loughton, Essex and was spotted on CCTV near Epping Forest on March 23.
Police search officers, dog units, and specialist police divers have been scouring the area for five days.
A Met Police spokesman said: “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.”
Ms Joel, 39, has this week spoken of her “hell” as she waited for news of her son.
She 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.Richard’s Mum, Evidence Joel
“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.”
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.
Richard said he was going out on March 22 and, after leaving his home in Ladbroke Grove he was seen walking in Kensington, at around 8.40pm.
I think he went to meet somebody. Definitely. Richard cannot go there. Especially at that time in the morning… someone was waiting for Richard.Evidence Joel, Richard’s Mum
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 officers said he was seen in the area of Epping Forest hours later – and before he was reported missing.
Cop 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 had been working around the clock to trace his next steps after this sighting and had searched in and around the forest as well as carrying out door-to-door enquiries.
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.”