The best friend of missing university student Richard Okorogheye said she is struggling to process the teenager’s sudden disappearance.
The 19-year-old from Ladbroke Grove, west London, went missing on March 22 after telling his mum he was going to visit a friend.
CCTV traced the Oxford Brookes University student to a residential street in Loughton, Essex where he was seen walking in the direction of Epping Forest.
On Monday following several days of police searches a body was discovered in a pond in the forest.
The body has not been formally identified.
Hala Mohamed, 18, has known Richard all her life, lives in the same block of flats, and attended secondary school and sixth form with the missing teenager.
She told MyLondon his disappearance was the “worst feeling ever”.
Hala added: “I can’t sleep, I can’t eat. He was everything to me, it’s a shock to the system, I don’t think I’ve processed everything.”
Paying tribute to Richard, she said: “He’s funny, full of life, always joking around, playing around.
“He always pushes you to be your best version of yourself and doesn’t want you to settle. He pushed me to start my clothing line.”
Hala, who studies Fashion and Business Management at the University of Creative Arts, said she and Richard discussed the struggles of university during the pandemic.
She said he didn’t show any signs of odd behaviour before he went missing and she has been touched by the public’s heartfelt reaction to his disappearance.
“It’s been amazing, I never thought it’d go this far,” she said.
“I expected for a few people to hear it but not as big as it went but it means the world that people do care.”
Richard suffered from sickle cell disease and had been shielding for more than a year – leaving home only to have blood transfusions due to his condition.
Although the body has yet to be formally identified, Richard’s mum Evidence Joel revealed that police had informed her the description matched her son.
Community nurse Ms Joel, 39, said: “We thought Richard would be found or would just come home. But he’s not. 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.
“We didn’t give up hope but the conclusion is not what we expected.
“Richard is my moon and sun. He is the reason I wake up each morning and breathe.”
Richard’s dad Newton Okorogheye, had been critical of the police’s initial response, saying that they had not taken Richard’s disappearance seriously despite his health condition.
The Met Police released a statement on Tuesday informing the public that a post-mortem is taking place on the body found in Epping Forest.
Speaking outside New Scotland Yard, Detective Superintendent Danny Gosling said: “This is an extensive enquiry and we are working tirelessly to establish the full circumstances. This includes forensic, medical and specialist enquiries which all take time to complete.
“As part of the ongoing investigation we’ve remained in the area to carry out further investigations