The body of Kevin Boyle, an apprentice from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant, was found in a garden in Coulsdon, Croydon, on Sunday afternoon.
Boyle went missing on October 12 last year. His death is being treated as ‘unexplained’ by Scotland Yard, with a post-mortem examination planned to take place in Croydon today or tomorrow.
Police do not believe his death is suspicious, but are investigating how he lay undiscovered for so long.
After his disappearance, Oliver launched a national appeal for information to help find Boyle and a missing persons website was also set up. In early appeals, he had been described as being depressed.
The TV chef, who trained Boyle as part of the Channel 4 series ‘Jamie’s Kitchen’ in 2002, said last night: “I’m deeply saddened by this tragic news. I am proud to have been able to call Kevin a friend for 10 years and he was also a constant supporter of Fifteen and all the apprentices and graduates who came after him through the course.
“I last saw him in September 2011 at the graduation ceremony for the ninth group of apprentices and he was on good form, which makes this news even harder to take.
“My thoughts are with his family at this incredibly difficult time.”
Boyle beat more than 1,500 competitors to appear on the programme, where a group of unemployed young people trained to become chefs. He appeared in the final episodes after another contestant dropped out.
He worked at various restaurants, most recently Vinoteca in Clerkenwell, and had cooked for the Prince of Wales and former Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
Scotland Yard said they are awaiting formal identification and that Boyle’s next of kin have been informed.
It is the second tragic death to hit Jamie Oliver’s apprentice chefs. In 2008, Christopher Pethick, 20, was found hanging from a tree a few miles from the Fifteen restaurant in Watergate Bay, Cornwall. He dropped out of the course in 2006 after suffering severe depression.