Japanese prosecutors demand life for Hawker killer

Japanese prosecutors demanded life imprisonment yesterday for a man who has admitted raping and killing the British teacher, Lindsay Ann Hawker.

The body of Ms Hawker, 22, was found in a sand-filled bathtub on the balcony of Tatsuya Ichihashi's apartment in 2007 in one of Japan's highest-profile killings. Ichihashi wrote a book about his two years on the run and the cosmetic surgery that he underwent to evade capture.

Ichihashi said when the trial began on 4 July that he had enticed Ms 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 Ms Hawker and did not remember when he actually strangled her. Prosecutors have argued that he did intend to kill her, and presented evidence they say suggests he had prepared for that scenario.

Ms Hawker's parents, who flew to Japan for the trial, had said they hoped Ichihashi would be given the strongest punishment possible. That could have meant death by hanging.

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, which attended yesterday's session. A verdict in the case is expected on 21 July.