Cops search ponds for missing student, 19, as new CCTV shows him leaving taxi

COPS have released footage of a missing student leaving a taxi as officers search ponds in Epping Forest.

Richard Okorogheye, 19, vanished after telling his mum he was "struggling to cope" with lockdown.

He had been shielding due to a sickle cell disease since the pandemic took hold last year.

New CCTV images of Richard show him leaving a cab while holding a plastic black bag in Loughton, Essex.

The teen was captured on camera in the early hours of Tuesday, March 23.

His phone has not been in use since his disappearance, officers investigating the case said.

Richard, who attended Oxford Brookes University, said he was going out on March 22.

After leaving his home in Ladbroke Grove, West London, he was seen walking in Kensington, at around 8.40pm.

It was thought the last footage of him was from the 23 bus southbound near his home.

CCTV footage shows he was wearing all black and had a black satchel bag with a white Adidas logo, worn across his lower back.

But now officers say he was seen in the area of Epping Forest hours later – and before he was reported missing.

Cops have established that Richard took a taxi to Loughton.

He was then captured on CCTV walking alone along Smarts Lane towards Epping Forest at 12.39am on Tuesday.

The Met said detectives were working around the clock to trace his next steps after this sighting and had begun searches in and around the forest as well as carrying out door-to-door enquiries.

They were also working alongside specialist search teams and colleagues from Essex Police.

Metropolitan Police Detective Superintendent Danny Gosling said: "We've been making extensive inquiries into the disappearance of Richard and over the last few days we've conducted a number of inquiries in relation to his mobile phone activity and also his financial activity.

"As a direct consequence of that we are able to identify that Richard paid for a taxi from west London which brought him to Loughton."

DS Gosling said the teenager's laptop and computer are being examined at a police lab for clues.

Detective Chief Inspector Nicki Beecher, from the Met's Area West Public Protection Unit, added: "It has now been nine days since Richard was last seen in person and we remain as committed as ever to locating him and bringing him home to his family.

"Our officers are working extremely hard to piece together the facts in order to build a picture of Richard's movements on the evening of Monday March 22.

"Latest information suggests he was last seen in Loughton in Essex and we are now focusing our attention here, with specialist search officers from across the Met brought in to assist.

"Our enquiries also continue in the Ladbroke Grove, W10 area where local officers have been carrying out search patrols and also community patrols to gather information from local residents.

"I would once again like to renew our appeal to the public for any information which may assist with our enquiries.

"If you may have seen Richard – particularly in the Loughton area – or have any information at all, please contact police."

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 quoting 21MIS008134.

As someone with sickle cell disease, Mr Okorogheye would only leave the house to go to hospital for regular blood transfusions for his condition.

Richard's mum Evidence Joel has called for him to come home.

She said: “Richard, we love you and miss you very much, please can you come home.

"We aren’t angry at you. We just want to know that you’re okay.

“For anyone reading this, we are desperately missing our son. If you know anything or know where he might be, please come forward and speak to the police.”

She previously told Sky News: “All he said to me was, 'Mummy, I'm going to see my friend'.

He's everything to me, he's the reason why I live, the reason I exist

“I trusted him, I had no doubt or no reason to ask him further questions.

"It's my baby, it's my treasure. He's my oxygen, he's my crown. He's everything to me, he's the reason why I live, the reason I exist.

"Right now I'm empty, there is nothing to look forward to. He's taken my breath away from me."

The mum had returned home from a nursing shift and assumed her son was in his room.

It was only when she knocked on his door after cooking his favourite dinner that she realised something was wrong.

After a locksmith helped her gain entry to the bedroom, she found Richard missing with his wallet, bus pass and bank card left behind.

None of Richard’s friends saw him that night or any night since he disappeared.

She believes he is being "held against his will" as he didn't even take a jacket or his vital medication.

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