Richard Okorogheye and his mum, Evidence Joel, used to celebrate Christmas Day with a special breakfast.

They would spend the morning at church and before the big day he liked to help her put the lights up on the tree.

This year, for the first time, Evidence is spending the festive season without her ‘beloved’ son, after her world changed forever when the 19-year-old went missing on March 22, 2021.

His body was found in Epping Forest two weeks later.

Now, speaking exclusively to Metro.co.uk, she says her ‘house is cold’ and she feels ‘anxious’ about the void the teenager has left in her life.

But the 39-year-old will keep him in her thoughts as she says prayers on Christmas morning for God to ‘grant Richard paradise’.

‘The house is already feeling cold without Richard,’ Evidence says.

‘I no longer have the warmth of my son, asking me how I am when I come in. The emptiness is hitting me, and although we’re going to celebrate, it’s not going to be the same without Richard.

‘I can foresee what it is going to look like and to be honest, I’m very anxious about it. How do I celebrate Christmas without my son?’

Richard, a first-year computer science student at Oxford Brookes University, was last seen on CCTV walking towards the forest in Essex.

Evidence previously spoke to Metro.co.uk for our State of Racism series about how she encountered a ‘dismissive’ attitude from police as she tried to raise the alarm over the course of two days and race hampered the way the reports were handled.

Richard’s body was found by police divers in a pond at the beauty spot, located 20 miles from their family home in Ladbroke Grove, West London.

As she waits from answers from an independent investigation into the Metropolitan Police’s handling of the case, Evidence will keep him in her thoughts on December 25.

‘I always spent that time with my son,’ she says.

‘I would work and come back in the morning and see him. Sometimes I would take the whole Christmas week off to spend it with him and do something wonderful.

‘I have such wonderful memories of putting the Christmas lights up and having a special breakfast in the morning.

‘He would say, “mummy we’ve got to put the lights up”, he would be so excited. When they were up he would say, “that looks absolutely stunning”.

‘We would go to a church service in the morning, open Christmas presents and have a special morning breakfast. The thought of doing it all without him is scary.

‘There is already a huge emptiness but it is getting larger and it is really kicking in. I’m really afraid, scared and worried that I can’t spend Christmas with my beloved son, Richard.

‘There’s a huge void that nothing can fill.’

The staff nurse has since completed a blood donation campaign to remember the teenager, whose quality of life was drastically improved by transfusions for sickle cell disorder.

She took part in the Bonded by Blood appeal, aimed at addressing a shortage of donors in the Black community, which is disproportionately affected by the condition.

Evidence told Metro.co.uk it had been a success, with Richard’s memory pulling in many people to make donations.

She will now keep him in her prayers on Christmas Day.

‘I will pray to God to grant Richard paradise and for him to rest in the bosom of almighty God,’ she says.

‘He is a young, innocent soul and mummy will be thinking about him every second. Even though he’s not here physically, I’ll always love him and he’ll always be my baby.

‘But Christmas will never be the same without him.’

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