Did Racism Hamper Search For Richard Okorogheye?

The police watchdog is to investigate whether racism played a role in the way the Met handled Richard Okorogheye’s disappearance.

On Monday, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said it would investigate complaints made by Okorogheye’s mother, Evidence Joel.

She has said she was “disappointed” about the way she was initially treated by police, and how her reports about her son’s disappearance were handled.

Joel told Sky News that police had asked her: “If you can’t find your son, how do you expect police officers to find your son for you?”

“Maybe it’s the culture, my language barrier,” Joel told Channel 4 News, adding that she believed officers considered her to be “one of those African women who was being frantic” and did not immediate take action to find her son.

The 19-year-old, who had sickle cell disease, went missing from his home in Ladbroke Grove, west London, on the evening of March 22.

His mother contacted police the following day, but he was not officially recorded as missing until 8am on March 24.

Okorogheye’s body was found in Epping Forest, Essex, on April 5.

The IOPC will also look at the Met Police’s overall handling of the missing person report.

IOPC 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.

“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.”

Okorogheye left his family home at around 8.30pm on March 22 and headed in the direction of Ladbroke Grove.

Police said further inquiries have established that he then took a taxi journey from the W2 area of London to a residential street in Loughton, Essex.

He was last seen on CCTV in Loughton, walking alone on Smarts Lane towards Epping Forest at 12.39am on March 23.

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