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Richard Okorogheye’s mum plans to build mental health foundation in his name

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Police confirmed yesterday a body found in a lake in Epping Forest, Essex, is that of Richard Okorogheye, 19 (Picture: PA)

Richard Okorogheye’s devastated mum hopes to build a foundation in his name to support sickle cell disease sufferers and young people with their mental health after her son ‘struggled to cope’ in Covid lockdown.

Evidence Joel has paid tribute to her only child, 19, saying his ‘radiant smile always lit up any room’, after his body was found in a lake in Epping Forest, Essex, on Monday.

The heartbroken mother is still coming to terms with the shock of her ‘beautiful’ son’s death, but says she plans to use his name to raise awareness for important issues in the future.

Blessing Okorji, Mr Okorogheye’s cousin, has launched a campaign to generate funds for his funeral, as well as a memorial bench to be installed near where he was found.

Money will also go towards creating a foundation to help those with sickle cell disease, an umbrella term for inherited health conditions that affect the red blood cells.

Mr Okorogheye, who was a sickle cell disease sufferer himself, would only leave the house to go to hospital for regular blood transfusions for his condition.

Ms Joel said: ‘There has to be awareness and for it to be treated as a serious disease. If we can use Richard’s name to bring more awareness then so be it.

‘A lot of people out there have a condition where they don’t have a voice, the public and society need to know what sickle cell is.’

The teenage had a ‘radiant smile that lit up every room’, mum Evidence Joel said (Picture: PA)

The family’s appeal on GoFundMe, which had a £5,000 target, raised more than £15,000 within seven hours of being set up on Thursday.

Describing the response as ‘incredible’, Ms Joel said: ‘I appreciate everyone and those who are contributing for Richard. His funeral is coming and any help and prayers we appreciate.’

Mr Okorogheye left his family home in the Ladbroke Grove area of west London on the evening of March 22, and was reported missing two days later.

He was last seen on CCTV in Loughton, Essex, in the early hours of March 23, walking towards Epping Forest.

His death is being treated as unexplained and police do not believe at this stage that there was any third-party involvement.

The cause of death is pending while further investigations are carried out, however the Metropolitan Police found no evidence of physical trauma or assault, the force said.

Following news of her son’s death, Ms Joel said her heart had ‘been ripped out’, adding: ‘It’s been devastating, we are all in shock. Now it’s coming to terms with the reality.’

Paying tribute to the Oxford Brookes University student, the mum added: ‘He is a beautiful, kind and thoughtful person, whose smile always lit a room that he entered.

‘He is the son that would do anything for his mum, and just breaks our heart that he is not going to be here anymore.

‘He is loved by those in the community, he was always the funny one in the group, he had a radiant smile. He had dreams and ambitions he sadly never got to achieve.’

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