The father of a English teacher murdered in Japan today spoke of his relief after her killer lost an appeal against his life sentence.
Tatsuya Ichihashi, 33, had claimed before the Tokyo High Court that he did not intend to kill Lindsay Hawker when he attacked her at his flat in March 2007. The language student raped and strangled Ms Hawker before going on the run for nearly three years and undergoing plastic surgery to change his appearance.
A judge threw out his application to have his jail term reduced to between 20 and 30 year, ordering that he serve his full life sentence after committing the “selfish” crime of murdering Ms Hawker in an attempt to conceal his sexual assault. Judge Yoshinobu Iida added it was impossible for Ichihashi to have unintentionally killed his victim as he claimed.
Bill Hawker, who along with his wife Julia led a long campaign to keep their daughter’s killing in the public eye in Japan while Ichihashi remained at large, said the family had stayed up overnight to watch coverage from Japan of the judgment being delivered. Ichihashi has previously apologised to the Hawker family in court proceedings.
Mr Hawker said: “We are just pleased that the original decision was upheld and the appeal was refused. The only thing that Ichihashi is sorry about is that he got caught. We are getting on with trying to rebuild our lives.”
Lindsay, 22, a Leeds University graduate, travelled to Japan in October 2006 to work as a teacher for a large English school and was last seen alive after giving her killer an English lesson in a coffee shop on 25 March 2007.
Police were tipped off by Ms Hawker’s friends that Ichihashi had been stalking her but the killer managed to avoid a team of nine officers sent to arrest him. The teacher’s battered and bound body was found buried naked in a sand-filled bath on the balcony of his flat in Ichikawa City, east of Tokyo.
A massive manhunt was launched but Ichihashi evaded his pursuers, crudely changing his appearance by cutting off moles on his face before undergoing more extensive plastic surgery funded by working as a labourer. He was finally arrested at a ferry terminal in the city of Osaka in western Japan in November 2009 as he waited for a ferry.
Ichihashi published a book, titled Until the Arrest, in which he confessed to the killing and described the work as a “gesture of contrition for the crime I committed”, adding that he wanted to donate all proceeds to Ms Hawker’s family.
Judge Iida dismissed the offer as a grounds for mitigation, saying it had only caused further trauma to the Hawker family.