Father of Lucie Blackman flies to Tokyo to face man linked with her murder

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The father of Lucie Blackman, who was murdered in Japan, will this week come face-to-face with the man linked to the killing of his daughter.

Tim Blackman flew to Tokyo yesterday to attend the trial of Joji Obara, the property developer who has been charged with the abduction of Ms Blackman, 21. He is also charged with her rape, resulting in death, and the disposal of her body.

He denies any involvement in the killing and has not been charged with her murder, which has prompted Mr Blackman to raise concerns that justice will not be done.

In an interview shortly before leaving for Japan, Mr Blackman, who has been tireless in his efforts to bring his daughter's killer to justice, admitted that he was apprehensive about his courtroom confrontation.

"I don't know if I am quite prepared. It is obviously going to be fairly traumatic," said the businessman, 50, who lives on the Isle of Wight. "It is important the Japanese know that we are keen to show we are involved and want to see justice being done."

This is the first time Mr Blackman has attended the court since Mr Obara went on trial last year, accused of a number of attacks on women. Ms Blackman, a former air hostess from Sevenoaks in Kent, had been working as a club hostess in Tokyo but vanished in July 2000.

When his daughter went missing, Mr Blackman faced a gruelling struggle to persuade the Japanese police to launch a proper investigation.

Mr Blackman spent six weeks searching for his daughter in and around Tokyo. He used the media to secure publicity for the case and also enlisted the support of Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and Robin Cook, who was then Foreign Secretary.

In February 2001, he received the phone call he had been dreading. The Japanese authorities told him that his daughter's dismembered remains had been discovered, after a seven-month search, in a cave near Mr Obara's beachside apartment outside Tokyo.

This Thursday, there is likely to be a cross-examination of witnesses who had visited Mr Obara's apartment around the time Ms Blackman's body was discovered.

Under Japanese law, defendants are tried through a system of 30-minute hearings, taking place every few weeks until all evidence has been put before the court. Hearings into the specific details of Ms Blackman's disappearance are expected to take place every week for the next year.

Over the next few days, British Embassy officials are expected to meet with Mr Blackman, who has made the trip to Japan with his daughter Sophie, 23, and his partner Jo Burr, 42.

Mr Blackman also hopes to talk to prosecutors during his visit but said he has found it extremely difficult to obtain information about the trial.

"They don't have a process to provide information for foreign people who have got a trial going on in the country," he said.

Mr Blackman also spoke of his disappointment that Mr Obara would not be facing a murder charge over his daughter's death.