Belfast Telegraph

Man denies causing student's death

A man accused of killing an Irish exchange student in Tokyo has shown no remorse and should be punished severely, Japanese prosecutors have said.

As his murder trial began, American musician Richard Hinds, of Memphis, Tennessee, denied intentionally suffocating Nicola Furlong last May.

He admitted he and Ms Furlong, 21, were in a hotel and he "lightly pressed her neck" while the two had sex. The defence suggested she died of an overdose of alcohol and drugs.

"I do not believe I was the cause of her death," Hinds told the court. "I had no intent or reason to hurt, harm or kill her."

Ms Furlong, a Dublin City University undergraduate from Curracloe, Co Wexford, came to Tokyo with a friend to see US rapper Nicki Minaj in concert and met Hinds, 19, and his friend, professional dancer James Blackston, 23, afterwards.

Prosecutors, who claim Hinds strangled Ms Furlong with a towel, said he and Blackston got the two women drunk and may have drugged them before taking them by taxi to a hotel in central Tokyo, where they borrowed wheelchairs to get the unconscious women to their rooms.

Ms Furlong was later found unconscious in her room after another guest complained of a loud noise. She died after being taken to hospital. Blackston, from Los Angeles, faces charges of sexually assaulting Ms Furlong's friend in a separate room.

Ms Furlong had been studying and living around 100km north at Takasaki City University of Economics, as part of an exchange programme.

The Tokyo trial is expected to last more than a week and Ms Furlong's parents Andrew and Angie and her sister Andrea are staying in the city to await the verdict and any sentencing.

Although murder can carry the death penalty in Japan, prosecutors were not expected to seek it. Blackston faces a maximum of four years if found guilty of assaulting Ms Furlong's friend. The verdict for Hinds is scheduled to be announced on March 19. Blackston's trial is expected to conclude on March 13.


From Belfast Telegraph