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Richard Okorogheye: Watchdog probes whether race played role in ‘failings’ during search

A police watchdog is investigating whether police failed to properly handle the disappearance of tragic Richard Okorogheye because of his ethnicity.

Today the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) confirmed it is probing the Met Police response after the 19-year-old vanished from his home in Ladbroke Grove in West London.

It follows a complaint by Richard’s mum Evidence Joel, who previously alleged she was told by police : “If you can’t find your son, how do you expect police officers to find your son for you?”

Richard was reported on March 23, and his body was discovered in Epping Forest, Essex, nearly two weeks later on Monday April 5.

The university student, who suffered from sickle cell disease, did not have any medication with him when he vanished.

Richard's mother Evidence Joel alleged she was told: 'if you can't find your son, how do you expect police officers to find your son for you?'
Richard’s mother Evidence Joel alleged she was told: ‘if you can’t find your son, how do you expect police officers to find your son for you?’

In a statement the IOPC said: “On Friday 16 April, IOPC investigators met with Ms Joel.

“During this meeting, she informed our investigators that she wished to complain about the way in which she was initially treated by the police and how her reports about the disappearance of her son were handled.”

IOPC Regional Director Sal Naseem said investigators will look at whether Richard or his mother’s ethnicity played a part in the way his disappearance was handled.

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

Richard disappeared from his home on March 23
Richard disappeared from his home on March 23

The university student suffered from sickle cell disease
The university student suffered from sickle cell disease

“We will examine whether the force appropriately risk assessed those reports, and if the amount of resources the Metropolitan Police dedicated to its enquiries were suitable based on the information known by the police and the risks posed.

“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.”

While Richard was missing, Ms Joel told Sky News: “I told a police officer that my son was missing, please help me find him, and she said ‘if you can’t find your son, how do you expect police officers to find your son for you?

“I was expecting assurance. My son was missing and it broke my heart.”



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