Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Seeing accused 'relief' for mother

American musician Richard Hinds is standing trial at Tokyo District Court (AP)

The mother of a murdered Irish exchange student has said she is finding some relief by looking directly at the man accused of killing her.

Nicola Furlong's parents, Andrew and Angie, and her sister, Andrea, came face to face with the man accused of her murder when his trial opened in Japan on Monday.

American musician Richard Hinds, 19, from Memphis, Tennessee, has admitted lightly pressing on the 21-year-old's neck, but denies killing her intentionally.

Mrs Furlong said the family felt they were going into the unknown on Monday, but were more confident on the second day of the hearing and felt it had gone extremely well.

"It's very, very important for us to be here," Mrs Furlong told Irish broadcaster RTE. "He's sitting directly in front of me and I can see him at all times and I am finding some relief looking at him. I'm releasing all my pain when I'm looking at him and I'm saying that you can take that on board."

The dead woman's father said that after "first-day nerves" the family were feeling upbeat.

Ms Furlong, a Dublin City University undergraduate from Curracloe, Co Wexford, was found unconscious in an upmarket hotel in central Tokyo last May. She had been studying and living about 62 miles (100km) north of the capital, at Takasaki City University of Economics, as part of an exchange programme.

On the night she was strangled, she had travelled with an Irish friend by train to Tokyo to see US rapper Nicki Minaj in concert. Afterwards, the pair met Hinds and James Blackston, a 23-year-old professional dancer from Los Angeles, and the four went to a bar together where they had drinks and danced.

In a separate trial, Blackston has denied sexually assaulting Ms Furlong's unidentified friend - known only as Victim A. She gave evidence that she cannot remember anything after taking a drink given to her during the evening.

Police were called to the hotel when a loud noise was heard from Hinds' room in the early hours of the morning and Ms Furlong was found unconscious. She died later in hospital.

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