29th Jun, 2022

West Midlands Police response to Coventry student's disappearance criticised in probe

Felix Nobes 16th Nov, 2018 Updated: 16th Nov, 2018

WEST Midlands Police’s response to the disappearance of a Coventry student who died has been criticised by the independent watchdog for police conduct.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found problems with the force’s record keeping and communication during the search.

Ozeivo Akerele, aged 24, was reported missing after failing to return home from a night out with friends in Coventry city centre on January, 31 2015.

His body was found more than a year later by youngsters playing on part of an overgrown churchyard at Foleshill on April, 21 2016.

The IOPC says the body was found close to where police had been searching.

An inquest in November 2016 concluded the cause of death was misadventure.

When West Midlands Police was contacted on January 31 it initially recorded him as absent but after several reviews changed his missing status to ‘high risk’ on February 6.

Further work focusing on his mobile and CCTV led to police searching in Foleshill, including the area around the churchyard which was fenced off.

An IOPC spokesperson said: “Evidence gathered by our investigator suggested that the risk assessments and the reviews of them were carried out in line with policy.

“There was no indication that any officer or member of police staff had a case to answer for misconduct although the force agreed that one officer would benefit from a learning debrief around risk assessments.

“However, the investigation found there was some confusion around the record keeping and communication of the action taken by officers during their searches of the area where Mr Akerele’s body was eventually found.”

Police announced at the time Nigerian-born Ozeivo had come to the city to study for a Masters Degree in Management of Information Technology at Coventry University – leaving behind his widowed mother and three brothers in Abuja, Nigeria.

They said he had only been in the country for a few weeks when he disappeared.

West Midlands Police will now consider amending guidance in similar cases, to provide clarity around the tasking and accurate recording of such searches.

IOPC regional commissioner Derrick Campbell said: “I would again extend my condolences to Mr Akerele’s family and everyone affected by his death.

“During our investigation we found no evidence to confirm when Mr Akerele died and nothing to suggest police may have contributed to his death.

“Numerous lines of enquiry were pursued and we found the police resources deployed at various stages were over and above policy requirements.

“Some learning in relation to the police searches was identified from our investigation, and the force’s response hopefully means that something positive will come out of this terribly sad case.”

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