Body found in Epping Forest identified as Richard Okorogheye

Discovery by Essex police on Monday is confirmed to be 19-year-old student missing since 22 March

A body found in a lake in Epping Forest has been formally identified as missing 19-year-old Richard Okorogheye, the Metropolitan police has said.

Officers from Essex police made the discovery on Monday. The Met said the student’s death is being treated as unexplained and they do not believe at this stage there was any third-party involvement.

Okorogheye, who had been shielding during the pandemic because of his sickle cell disease, went missing from his home in Ladbroke Grove, west London, on 22 March. He was reported missing by his family two days later.

The cause of death is pending while further investigations are carried out, but a postmortem found no evidence of physical trauma or assault.

Det Supt Danny Gosling, head of the Met’s Central West Public Protection Unit, said: “My deepest sympathies go out to Richard’s family at this incredibly difficult time. This was not the outcome that any of us had hoped for and we will ensure that his grieving family are well supported by specially trained officers.

“I would like to extend my thanks to the many officers, staff and members of the public who have each played a part in the extensive effort to locate Richard.”

Richard’s next of kin have been informed and are being supported by specialist officers.

The force said Okorogheye, a business and IT undergraduate at Oxford Brookes university, took a taxi journey from west London to a residential street in Loughton, Essex.

He was captured on CCTV walking alone on Smarts Lane, Loughton, towards the area of Nursery Road and Epping Forest on 23 March, which was the last confirmed sighting.

Richard had been shielding throughout the pandemic and left home only to attend hospital appointments.

His mother, Evidence Joel, a community nurse, previously told the Guardian she had no idea why her son had travelled to Epping Forest, or if he knew anybody in that area.

He was a regular PlayStation 5 gamer, and she had appealed to his online friends to contact the police if they had any information.

Joel, 39, told the Evening Standard newspaper on Tuesday of her devastation after a body was found. She said: “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. 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.”

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