Mother of missing teen refuses to apologize to police, demands accountability

Caption: SUNDAY 7AM: Richard Okorogheye's mum has spoken of being

Evidence Joel has spoken of being abandoned by police when she tried to raise the alarm over the disappearance of her son Richard Okorogheye (Image: @evi.joel.q /PA/Sky News)

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

Evidence Joel said she was “fired” by officers “at the darkest time of my life” after reporting Richard Okorogheye’s disappearance.

Richard, who suffered from sickle cell anemia and was shielded as a vulnerable adult, went missing from his home in west London on March 22, 2021.

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

Ms Joel had tried on several occasions to alert police that the bright Oxford Brookes student had sickle cell disease and had left home without his medication.

She spoke of her “deep regret” after an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) into his disappearance was completed.

The watchdog noted that officers gave Richard’s mother an overall unacceptable service when she reported him missing and that the force should apologize. The Met said today it wanted to “apologize for the distress caused by the below average level of service” which “was not at a level that the public would expect of us”.

Ms Joel told “The IOPC inquiry has shown the failures of the police, but there is no accountability or disciplinary procedure yet.

“Following the traumatic events and the way I was treated when I reported my dear son missing, unfortunately he is no longer with us, the only thing the police could do was apologize. But the apology is not accepted.

“When I reported Richard missing, it was not taken seriously. Of course, there were many failures, but something must be done about it, a lesson must be learned so that this does not happen to any other family in the future. These people need to be held accountable and held accountable for what they have done.’

Ms Joel, 40, told that an officer asked her: “If you can’t find your son, how do you expect us to find him?”

“I felt terrible,” she said. “You have completely let me, my family and Richard down. We can’t bring Richard back, but something needs to change. I don’t want other people to have to go through what I went through, what my family went through. No matter what race or where you’re from, missing should be missing. If you report a child or loved one missing, it should be taken seriously.’

BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Undated family photo issued by the Metropolitan Police of Richard Okorogheye. Home Secretary Priti Patel has met Evidence Joel, mother of Richard Okorogheye, to hear her concerns about the police response to her son's disappearance. Issue date: Friday May 28, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story POLICE Okorogheye. Photo credit should read: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may be used for editorial reporting purposes only to simultaneously illustrate events, things or people in the photo or facts mentioned in the photo's caption. Reuse of the image may require further permission from the copyright owner.

Richard Okorogheye was a bright and loving son in his freshman year at a university course (Image: PA)

Ms. Joel also spoke today about the law firm she represents.

She said: “The IOPC inquiry has confirmed what I always knew – during the darkest time of my life I was dismissed from a number of Metropolitan Police officers at all seniority levels and my son’s disappearance was not taken seriously. It deeply regrets that although both the IOPC and the Metropolitan Police concluded that the performance of three police officers, including an inspector, and three call handlers fell below the expected standard, no one faced a misconduct procedure becomes. Therefore, the apology will not be accepted.’

Birnberg Peirce Solicitors’ Tara Mulcair, representing Ms Joel, said: “It is unfortunate that the Metropolitan Police have decided to apologize to Ms Joel now, almost 16 months after his disappearance and only on a recommendation from the IOPC.”

Ms Joel previously spoke to for our State of Racism series about how the force reacted when they tried to raise the alarm and described how her son was not given high priority.

The nurse said she was met with a “collusive” attitude from police when they tried to report him missing over the course of two days, and that race hampered the way the case was handled. Richard was a first-year student in the Computer Science for Cyber ​​Security program who was close with his mother and had no criminal record.

State of racism: Richard Okorogheye's mother says he would be'thrilled' about her blood drive Image: Proof Joel

Evidence Joel with her son Richard Okorogheye, who had sickle cell disease and benefited from monthly blood transfusions (Image: Evidence Joel)

Acting Deputy Commissioner Bas Javid responded to the IOPC inquiry, saying: “Our thoughts remain with Richard’s family and I would like to apologize for the distress caused by the below average level of service, as highlighted by the Independent Bureau of Police Conduct.

“It is clear that the service we provided in the days following Richard’s disappearance was not at a level that the public would expect of us, which included Richard not being listed as a missing person; its risk of not being updated sooner; communication with his mother was not as informative and precise as it could have been and, regrettably, an insensitive and inappropriate remark by one of our officers.

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

Evidence Joel through a picture showing her side by side with her son (Image: Evidence Joel/Instagram/evi.joel.9)

Evidence Joel through a picture showing her side by side with her son (Image: Evidence Joel/Instagram/evi.joel.9)

“We recognize how worrying it must be not knowing the whereabouts of a loved one, and we challenge ourselves to be more responsive when someone reports a missing person.

“To help us improve, we work with partners like 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 missing person reports that we receive on a daily basis.”

The IOPC noted that six Met employees, three officers and three members of the police force were to receive “reflective drills.”

The Met said this will be done through improved training for those officers and staff, and it has been found that none of the staff have faced a misconduct case.

The apology follows the force being placed under special action last week after Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Police and Fire and Emergency Services found it was failing on several fronts.

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

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Justin Scacco

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