The police watchdog are set to investigate whether racism hampered the police search for Richard Okorogheye.

Richard Okorogheye, 19 years old, was in his first year studying IT and Buisness at Oxford Brookes University. He had sickle cell disease.  Due to his condition, he had been shielding the most of the lockdown, he would only leave the house to go to hospital for regular blood transfusions for his condition.

He went missing from his home in West London on 22nd March, after being seen on CCTV leaving the house with no coat, heading in the direction of Ladbroke Grove.

Following further enquiries, it is has been understood that he took a taxi from the W2 area of London to a residential street in Loughton, Essex.

He was last seen on CCTV in Loughton, walking alone on Smarts Lane towards Epping Forest.

His mother, Evidence Joel, returned home from a night shift as a staff nurse when she realised Richard was missing. In an interview,  she explained “I see him as a young adult, but still vulnerable due to his health, so yeah I got worried.” 

She contacted the police the next day, but the missing person report was not officially filed until 24th March.

She asked the police to make him a priority case, due to his illness. When she contacted the police, they said:

“Richard is an adult he can go and come at any time”

They told her “Richard is not known by the police” and she said this was because he is a good boy, he has aspirations and he would never be known in a bad way.”

She has also claimed that the police told her “if you can not find your son, how do you expect police officers to find your son for you?”

On the 5th April, Richard Okorogheye’s body was found in Epping Forest, Essex.

Yesterday, The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said they would investigate the Met Police’s treatment of Evidence Joel and the handling of the reports of her son’s disappearance.

In a statement, they said:

“Our investigation will establish whether the police responded appropriately to the concerns raised that Richard was missing.”

As there is a mandatory requirement for police forces to refer to us incidents which result in a death or serious injury, we will examine the actions and decisions of the police when dealing with the missing person report made in respect of a vulnerable young man.

“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.”

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