Richard Okorogheye was a young man full of life and always pushing others to be the best version of themselves.
Over two weeks ago on the evening of March 22, Richard, 19, told his mother he was going out to visit a friend. He would never return home.
On Wednesday evening (April 7), police confirmed that a body found in a pond in Epping Forest, Essex was Richard.
Throughout these difficult days since Richard went missing, those close to him have spoken about his hopes and dreams, and the young man they loved dearly.
We share the words of his family and friends here, a celebration of a bright light and a life full of love.
‘Richard is my moon and sun’
Richard’s mother Evidence Joel described her son as her “moon and sun,” the reason she wakes up each morning.
When Richard went missing Ms Joel said something had gone wrong and that his disappearance was completely out of character.
She shared how worried she was about her son’s mental health and his sickle cell diseases. And she fought desperately hard for his case to be classed as high risk.
“Richard is my moon and sun,” she said. “He is the reason I wake up each morning and breathe.
“I worship the ground he walks on.”
Ms Joel told My London she was grateful for all the support she has received and that Richard wasn’t forgotten but will now ‘live on.’
Speaking to the Evening Standard, she wept as she said: “My baby will never come home to his mummy again. I can’t even describe the feeling. He was taken away from me too early.
“The only child I have. It’s devastating and the last thing I thought I’d hear.”
A boy with focus and aspirations
Ms Joel also spoke of Richard’s favourite meal, that was still waiting in the fridge for him on April 2.
Speaking to Channel 4, she said: “I want to hold you Richard, come home.
“I want to embrace him and tell him how much I love him. I do love him so much, because he’s the only one I have.
“His favourite food is spaghetti. It sits there in the fridge waiting for him. I made a sauce for him.”
She added how her son, a student at Oxford Brookes University, was a “very intelligent” and “good boy”.
“He avoids trouble,” Ms Joel said. “He has a lot of focus in life, he has aspirations.”
He was full of life
Richard’s best friend and neighbour Hala Mohamed, said Richard always wanted to start his own business and that the former Business and IT student was in the process of starting his own clothing line.
“I know he would have loved to move to America at some point,” she said. “He was just always ready to do more for himself to even push himself to be the best version he could be.”
She said Richard was always playing, joking around and full of life.
“Richard’s smile is everything,” Hala told My London.
Hala said Richard was always the one to push his friends to be the best versions of themselves, and not settle for less – even encouraging her to start her own fashion business.
Although investigations are still ongoing to establish the cause of death, Hala said she doesn’t think Richard took his own life.
‘He has left us way too young’
Richard’s disappearance has been a viral topic across social media and mainstream media with thousands offering well wishes and support for appeals to find him.
One user wrote: “Absolutely devastating. RIP to this young man and love and strength to his family. Terribly sad news.”
Another user wrote: “May the peace that surpasses all understanding come and wrap Richard Okorogheye’s mother and loved ones during this season.
“This case is so heartbreaking, I have no words.”
UK rapper Ramz wrote: “RIP Richard Okorogheye; thoughts and prayers for his family.”
Felicity Buchan, MP for Kensington where Richard lived, said “I am so desperately sad to hear of the passing of Richard Okorogheye. He has left us way too young.
“All my thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends.”