The devastated mother of Richard Okorogheye has spoken of her heart being “ripped apart” after the student’s body was found in a lake in Epping Forest, Essex.

Evidence Joel described how her life “is already empty” after police confirmed the body found in a pond in the woodland on Monday was that of her 19-year-old son, who was reported missing two weeks ago.

Speaking to Sky News, she said: “My heart feels as if it has been ripped apart.

“I am completely hollow and devastated and empty.

“Life is already empty, there’s like a cloud just hovering around, it took the sun away from me.

“What am I going to look forward to? What is there to look forward to again?”

Mr Okorogheye left his family home in the Ladbroke Grove area of west London on the evening of Monday March 22.

He was reported missing the following Wednesday.

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

Ms Joel questioned how her son, who has sickle cell disease, had been able to travel to Essex.

She said: “It’s too far for Richard to walk into the darkness alone.

“How did he get there? We don’t know. I feel something happened there.

“The forest is massive and scary, it’s a place that one wouldn’t wish to go at night.

“It was not a very comfortable place to be.”

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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.

Mr 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 Tuesday March 23.

The force said Mr Okorogheye’s phone has not been in use since his disappearance.

Police said a referral has been made to the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards and to the Independent Office for Police Conduct “as a matter of routine”, as the student had been reported missing prior to his body being found.

Ms Joel previously said her son had spoken of “struggling to cope” with university pressures and had been shielding during the Covid-19 lockdown.

As someone with sickle cell disease, Mr Okorogheye would only leave the house to go to hospital for regular blood transfusions for his condition.