Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Life term call for Briton's killer

The death of 22-year-old Lindsay Hawker is one of Japan's highest-profile killings

Japanese prosecutors have demanded life imprisonment for the man who has admitted raping and killing a British woman and then evading a nationwide manhunt for more than two years, reports have said.

The death of 22-year-old Lindsay Hawker, whose body was found in a dirt-filled bathtub on the balcony of Tatsuya Ichihashi's apartment in 2007, is one of Japan's highest-profile killings.

Ichihashi even wrote a book about his time on the run and the extensive and sometimes grisly cosmetic surgery he underwent to evade capture.

Ichihashi said when his murder trial began on July 4 that he had enticed Miss Hawker into his apartment, raped and then strangled her because he feared her screams would prompt neighbours to call the police. Although he confessed to causing her death, he said he did not plan to murder her and he did not remember actually strangling her.

Prosecutors have argued that he did intend to kill her, and presented evidence they say suggests he had prepared for that scenario.

Miss Hawker's parents, who flew from their home in Brandon, near Coventry, to Japan to attend the trial, had said they hoped Ichihashi would be given the strongest punishment possible. That could have meant death by hanging.

Japanese media reported that the prosecution has instead requested a life sentence.

The trial is being held in Chiba, east of Tokyo. As is customary, court officials refused to comment on the reports of the sentencing demand, which were flashed by national TV networks and carried by Japan's Kyodo news agency. A verdict in the case is expected on July 21.

Ichihashi evaded police for more than two years despite the intense manhunt, a reward of 10 million yen (£77,700) and wanted posters plastered across the country.

In his book Until The Arrest, Ichihashi described scissoring off his lower lip and digging two moles out of his cheek with a box cutter. He said he wore surgical masks to cover his face and lived in constant fear of being identified.

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