Watchdog are set to investigate the police handling of the disappearance of 19-year-old Richard Okorogheye, considering the role race played when handling initial reports.
Teenager Richard Okorogheye went missing from his home in Ladbroke Grove London on the evening of March 22nd. The 19-year-old, who had Sickle Cell disease, was then found dead in Epping Forest, Essex, two weeks later.
Okorogheye's Mother, Evidence Joel, contacted Police the following day after his disappearance yet he was not officially registered as a missing person until 8am on the 24th March.
His Mother has since shared her "disappointment" with the Police' initial response to Richard's disappearance. She also questioned the Police' understanding of her son's health condition after they attempted to reassure her by saying that if he needed to that he would be able to "find his way to hospital." Evidence then confirmed that in fact he may not be able to do so, questioning "Do you know when you are in crisis? Do you know what the pain is like?" referring to the immense pain and distress caused when experiencing a Sickle Cell crisis.
Many have compared Richard's disappearance with Sarah Everard's, a Woman who went missing in early March when walking home in London, who's body was found in a Woodland in Kent a week after. When speaking on the comparisons Richard's Mother said "The public have already summarised, I think the media have summarised, the obvious. If Richard was that colour, blue eyes, maybe the reaction would have been different immediately: that’s what they say.”
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) have officially announced that they will be addressing the complaints made about the police handling of initial reports of his disappearance, looking into if the Metropolitan Police “responded appropriately” and whether ethnicity played a role in how the case was dealt with.
Speaking on the matter, IOPC's regional director Sal Naseem said "Our thoughts are with Richard's family and friends and all those affected by this tragic loss. We have spoken to his family and explained our role."
"Our investigation will establish whether the police responded appropriately to the concerns raised that Richard was missing. 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."
He also explained that “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.”
Our thoughts are with Richard's friends and family during this tough time.
Rest In Peace Richard Okorogheye.