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Gboyega Odubanjo: We want answers about search for poet, say friends

Gboyega Odubanjo, a poet who went missing at a music festival in Northamptonshire (Northamptonshire Police/PA)
Gboyega Odubanjo, a poet who went missing at a music festival in Northamptonshire (Northamptonshire Police/PA)

Family and friends of an award- winning London poet who went missing at a music festival have said they have “questions” about the five-day search for him after police on Thursday discovered a body nearby.

Gboyega Odubanjo, 27, from Dagenham, was last seen at Shambala in Kelmarsh, Northamptonshire, at 4am on Saturday, having been invited to read poetry at the event the following day. He did not arrive, prompting relatives, supporters and celebrities to launch a social media campaign to help find him.

Northamptonshire Police said officers found a body shortly before 9am on Thursday in the course of a specialised search and rescue effort involving dogs, divers and volunteers from a number of forces. While formal identification has not taken place, Mr Odubanjo’s next of kin were informed and supported by specially trained officers.

Police said there are not believed to be any suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.

Mr Odubanjo’s family asked for compassion and privacy “at this incredibly difficult time”, adding: “We are devastated to announce with broken hearts and profound grief, that a body has been found in the search for Gboyega Odubanjo — beloved son and brother, cherished friend and acclaimed artist.”

Gboyega Odubanjo, 27, was “loving and caring with a heart full of kindness
Gboyega Odubanjo, 27, was “loving and caring with a heart full of kindness" (Tice Cin / X)

Last night, loved ones gathered at The Poetry Café in Betterton Street, Covent Garden to remember him by reciting his work.

Best friend Tice Cin, the novelist and filmmaker, told the Standard: “We have questions and want answers about the police search for him but the family are asking for Gboyega to be remembered for his achievements and kindness.”

Publishers Bad Betty Press, where Mr Odubanjo was an editor, said it was “confounding” police told friends and family “repeatedly” an extensive search of areas, including a lake, was under way and that they had been “discouraged” from undertaking their own efforts.

But Detective Chief Inspector Johnny Campbell said unofficial searches carried a risk to those involved and the investigation.

He added: “Our thoughts are with the man’s family at this very difficult time. Officers from Northamptonshire Police will now prepare a file for the coroner.”

Mr Odubanjo was studying for his PhD in creative writing at the University of Hertfordshire and won the Poetry Business New Poets prize in 2020. His work has appeared in Poetry Review and the New Statesman.