You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Mum of missing teenager rejects Met Police apology and demands accountability

Metro logo Metro 06/07/2022 Josh Layton
Evidence Joel has spoken of being failed by police as she tried to raise the alarm over the disappearance of her son Richard Okorogheye (Picture: @evi.joel.q /PA/Sky News) © Provided by Metro Evidence Joel has spoken of being failed by police as she tried to raise the alarm over the disappearance of her son Richard Okorogheye (Picture: @evi.joel.q /PA/Sky News)

The mum of a 19-year-old whose body was found two weeks after he went missing has rejected an apology from the Metropolitan Police.

Evidence Joel said she was ‘dismissed’ by officers ‘in the darkest period of my life’ after reporting the disappearance of Richard Okorogheye.

Richard, who had sickle cell anaemia and had been shielding as a vulnerable adult, went missing from his home in West London on March 22, 2021.

The loving son was last seen on CCTV walking towards Epping Forest in Essex. His body was found at the beauty spot, located 20 miles from his family home in Ladbroke Grove, on April 5.

Ms Joel had tried on a number of occasions to make the police aware that the bright Oxford Brookes student had sickle cell and had left his home without his medication.

She spoke of her ‘deep regret’ after an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation into his disappearance concluded.

The watchdog found that, overall, officers provided an unacceptable level of service to Richard’s mother when she reported him missing and that the force should apologise. The Met said today that it wanted ‘to apologise for the distress caused by the substandard level of service’, which was ‘not at a level the public would expect of us’.

Ms Joel told Metro.co.uk: ‘The IOPC investigation has showed the police failures but yet there is no accountability or disciplinary proceedings.

‘After the traumatic events and the way I was treated when I reported my dear son missing, sadly he has no longer here with us, the only thing the police could do is to apologise. But the apology is not accepted.

‘When I reported Richard missing it wasn’t taken seriously. Clearly there was a lot of failure but something needs to be done about it, a lesson needs to be learnt so it doesn’t happen to another family in the future. Those people need to be brought to book and held accountable for what they have done.’

Ms Joel, 40, told Metro.co.uk that one officer had asked her: ‘If you can’t find your son how do you expect us to find him?’

‘It made me feel awful,’ she said. ‘They let me, my family and Richard down completely. We can’t bring Richard back, but something needs to be changed. I don’t want other people to go through what I went through, what my family went through. No matter your race or where you come from, missing should be missing. When you report a child or loved on missing it should be taken seriously.’

Richard Okorogheye was a bright and loving son who was in his first year of a university course (Picture: PA) © Provided by Metro Richard Okorogheye was a bright and loving son who was in his first year of a university course (Picture: PA)

Ms Joel also spoke today via the law firm which is representing her.

She said: ‘The IOPC investigation has confirmed what I always knew – in the darkest period of my life, I was dismissed by multiple Metropolitan Police staff at all levels of seniority and my son’s disappearance was not taken seriously. It is a matter of deep regret to me that despite both the IOPC and Metropolitan Police concluding that the performance of three police officers, including an inspector, and three call handers fell short of the standard expected, nobody will face misconduct proceedings. Therefore the apology is not accepted.’

Tara Mulcair of Birnberg Peirce solicitors, which is representing Ms Joel, said: ‘It is regrettable that the Metropolitan Police have decided to apologise to Ms Joel now, almost 16 months after his disappearance and only after a recommendation from the IOPC.’

Ms Joel has previously spoken to Metro.co.uk for our State of Racism series about the way the force reacted as she tried to raise the alarm, describing how her son was not treated as a high priority.

The staff nurse said she encountered a ‘dismissive’ attitude from police as she tried to report him missing over the course of two days and race hampered the way the case was handled. Richard was a first year student on the Computer Science for Cyber Security programme who had a close relationship with his mum and no criminal record.

Evidence Joel with her son Richard Okorogheye who had sickle cell disorder and benefitted from monthly blood transfusions (Picture: Evidence Joel) © Provided by Metro Evidence Joel with her son Richard Okorogheye who had sickle cell disorder and benefitted from monthly blood transfusions (Picture: Evidence Joel)

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Bas Javid, responding to the IOPC investigation, said: ‘Our thoughts remain with Richard’s family and I would like to apologise for the distress caused by the substandard level of service, as highlighted by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

‘It is clear the service we provided in the days following Richard’s disappearance was not at a level the public would expect of us, which included Richard not being classified as a missing person; his risk not being upgraded sooner; the communications with his mother not being as informative and precise as they could have been and, regrettably, an insensitive and inappropriate comment made by one of our officers.

‘We will address these issues directly with the officers and staff involved through additional enhanced training.

Evidence Joel by a picture showing her side-by-side with her son (Picture: Evidence Joel/Instagram/evi.joel.9) © Provided by Metro Evidence Joel by a picture showing her side-by-side with her son (Picture: Evidence Joel/Instagram/evi.joel.9)

‘We recognise how worrying it must be to not know where a loved one is, and we are challenging ourselves to do better at responding when someone does report a missing person.

‘To help us improve we are working with partners, such as the charity Missing People, to understand and learn from the experiences of different communities across London.

‘We are also introducing a new way to assess all the missing person reports we receive every day.’

The IOPC found six Met employees, three officers and three members of police staff, should receive ‘reflective practice’.

The Met said this will be delivered by way of enhanced training for those officers and staff and none of the employees was found to have a case to answer for misconduct.

The apology follows the force being placed in special measures last week after Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services found it to be failing on a number of fronts.

An inquest into Richard’s death is due to take place next year.

Do you have a story you would like to share? Contact josh.layton@metro.co.uk

For more stories like this, check our news page.

Get your need-to-know latest news, feel-good stories, analysis and more by signing up to Metro's News Updates newsletter

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Metro

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon