Richard Okorogheye: Police staff served with misconduct notices over teen’s disappearance

Staff may have failed to pass on ‘new and relevant information’, policing body says

Matt Mathers
Friday 09 July 2021 15:30 BST
Richard Okorogheye’s body was found more than a week after his mother raised the alarm
Richard Okorogheye’s body was found more than a week after his mother raised the alarm (Family handout)

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Two Metropolitan Police staff members may have failed to pass on information in relation to the disappearance of Richard Okorogheye and have been served with misconduct notices as a result, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has announced.

Mr Okorogheye, 19, an Oxford Brookes University student, went missing from his west London home on 22 March.

His mother, Evidence Joel, alerted police on 23 March and made further calls the following day.

The body of Mr Okorogheye, who had sickle cell disease and was shielding because of the pandemic, was found more than a week later in Epping Forest, Essex.

His cause of death is yet to be determined.

Ms Joel made a complaint about how officers handled reports that her son was missing and the IOPC launched an investigation in April.

In a statement on Friday, an IOPC spokesperson said: “We can confirm that we have served misconduct notices on two members of Metropolitan Police Service staff as there is an indication that they may have failed to pass on new and relevant information relating to Richard Okorogheye to the team responsible for conducting missing person assessments.

“The serving of misconduct notices does not mean that disciplinary proceedings will follow,” they added.

Earlier this year, Ms Joel said police treated her as a nuisance.

She told The Independent in April that police appeared to “count the minutes” when she would call about her missing son.

They believed she was “just being frantic” or had “nothing better to do”.

She met IOPC investigators the following week on 16 April to complain about officers’ behaviour. The IOPC later launched its investigation.

IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said: “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 report 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.

“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”.

In her interview with The Independent, Ms Joel said police told her that her son was an adult who had “a right to privacy”.

“In fact, most of the time I was on the phone, they were counting the minutes,” she says. “They said, ‘Evidence, you called earlier, about an hour ago. You’re still calling. There are no updates.’

“‘Evidence, you have been on the phone for the last 10 minutes. We can’t give you any more information.”

Ms Joel, 39, a nurse, added: “I will not treat anyone like that that comes into my care. I will give you the full support.”

The Samaritans is a charity available 24 hours a day offering a confidential listening service to anyone in distress. To contact the Samaritans helpline, call 116 123. The phone line is open 24 hours, seven days a week.

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