A post-mortem examination is due to be carried out on a body found in Epping Forest by police searching for missing student Richard Okorogheye.
The family of the 19-year-old, who has sickle cell disease, have been spoken to by officers as they await for formal identification of the body, which is said to match the teenager’s description.
Mr Okorogheye went missing after leaving his family home in the Ladbroke Grove area of west London on the evening of 22 March.
Speaking to reporters outside Scotland Yard on Tuesday, Metropolitan Police Detective Superintendent Danny Gosling said: “Yesterday afternoon we were informed by colleagues from Essex Police that a body had been found in a lake in the Epping Forest area.
“Whilst we wait for formal identification, we have spoken to Richard’s family to update them with this latest development.
“Our specially trained officers remain with the family as they have done throughout this inquiry.”
Mr Gosling said police remained in Epping Forest to carry out further searches as they try to piece together what happened to Mr Okorogheye.
“The post-mortem examination will take place shortly and we are also waiting for formal identification,” he said.
“This is an extensive inquiry, and we are working tirelessly to establish the full circumstances. This includes forensic medical and specialist inquiries, which all take time to complete.”
Mr Okorogheye’s mother, Evidence 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, the teenager would only leave the house to go to hospital for regular blood transfusions for his condition, she said.
Ms Joel and Richard’s father Newton Okorogheye also criticised the police’s handling of the case, claiming that officers did not take their concerns “seriously” following his disappearance.
They said their son was not considered “high risk” until he had been missing for almost one week, despite his health condition.
“I told a police officer that my son was missing, please help me find him, and she said ‘if you can’t find your son, how do you expect police officers to find your son for you?’” Ms Joel said. “I was expecting assurance.”
A Met spokesperson told The Independent the force’s Department of Professional Standards was aware of Mr Okorogheye’s case amid concerns about the force’s response to his disappearance.
“We are not aware of any formal complaints. Even in cases without significant publicity, the public can be reassured that work will be going on behind the scenes,” they added.
Speaking after the body was discovered on Monday, she told the MyLondon website: “[The police] said the description matches his, but we’ll go in tomorrow to find out.”
Mr Okorogheye was last seen on CCTV in Loughton, Essex, in the early hours of 23 March, walking towards Epping Forest.
The force said Mr Okorogheye’s phone has not been in use since his disappearance.