The father of a young British woman murdered in Japan said that he felt "pity" for her accused killer after facing him for the first time at the start of his trial in Tokyo yesterday.
Lucie Blackman 21, was working at a Tokyo nightclub when she vanished in July 2000. Her dismembered remains were found near Joji Obara's beachside apartment outside Tokyo after a seven-month search. The case gripped Japan as her father Tim Blackman enlisted the help of the Japanese and British media in his relentless hunt for her killer.
Mr Blackman flew to Japan at the weekend to meet British Embassy officials and prosecutors before the start of the trial of Mr Obara, which is expected to last 12 months.
The property developer is charged with the abduction of Ms Blackman as well as rape resulting in death and the disposal of her body. The start of the hearing is likely to involve cross-examination of witnesses who visited Mr Obara's apartment around the time Ms Blackman's body was found.
Mr Obara, 50, faces separate charges of raping five other women as well as sexual violence resulting in death for allegedly drugging and raping an Australian woman in 1992.
Asked how he felt on seeing Mr Obara, Mr Blackman said: "I am really surprised how we feel a greater feeling of pity for this individual rather than anger. It's a real relief to have made this step into the judicial system and we look forward to seeing how the trial goes."
The accused, wearing a charcoal grey suit and spectacles for his first court appearance, has denied involvement in Ms Blackman's disappearance but has said he had drinks with her at the bar in the Roppongi entertainment district where she worked.
Mr Blackman said he had overcome his initial suspicion about the duration of the legal proceedings. His daughter's case has been delayed while evidence is heard on numerous other alleged attacks on women by Mr Obara.
Mr Blackman said hearings in his daughter's case had been held since September and could continue every few weeks for the next year. He told the BBC: "We felt a degree of suspicion as to whether some other motive was going on. But the more we have become knowledgeable of the system we are getting a better understanding that it is simply the meticulous approach of the Japanese system which is taking the time. At the end of this particular trip we have really got our tails up and [want to] witness the entire event and see it through to the end."
Mr Blackman also spoke of his increasing disappointment that Mr Obara is not facing a murder charge over his daughter's death. "It seems more disappointing now than it was a couple of years ago because I think we have dealt with the loss of Lucie a bit more and one gets a little bit more concerned about the degree of justice that we are going to receive."