Lucie Blackman's father tells murder trial of family's 'torture and damage'

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The Independent Online

Lucie Blackman's father Tim has described how his family has been "tortured and damaged" by the gruesome killing of his daughter Lucie in Tokyo almost six years ago.

Speaking yesterday at the trial of the man accused of drugging and raping Lucie, Mr Blackman said his 25-year-old daughter Sophie, who went to Japan to search for her sister after she disappeared in 2000, had attempted suicide and was now a patient at a psychiatric unit. His son Rupert, 22, had dropped out of university and was also receiving medical treatment.

"I see the pain and despair in the faces of Sophie and Rupert, knowing I can only comfort them with words as I worry how their future will be affected by the loss of their sister."

Mr Blackman told the court the death of 21-year-old Lucie, who was working as a hostess in Tokyo when she went missing, was "the most terrible event of my life" and said the trauma had changed him, leaving him "shattered, empty and numb."

Lucie's body was found seven months later dismembered and buried in plastic bags in a cave in Miura, south of Tokyo, near the apartment of the accused, Joji Obara. Police later determined she had been drugged and her body cut up with a chainsaw.

Judge Tsutomu Tochigi said Mr Obara refused to attend court during Mr Blackman's appearance, as he did last week when Lucie's mother, Jane Steare, read her statement. Mr Obara's lawyers said the 53-year-old did not want to cooperate with a court that had "already presumed guilt".

Lawyers for the defence claimed that allowing Lucie's parents to make emotional statements in court prejudiced Mr Obara's trial, but Mr Blackman said he was grateful for the opportunity to speak. "In the Japanese legal system this does have a bearing on the degree of sentence handed down if the defendant is found guilty."

Mr Blackman confirmed that Mr Obara, who is accused of eight other rapes, had offered him money: "The accused has offered our family a total of £500,000 to stay away from the court and not give evidence." In a press conference after the court hearing, Mr Blackman looked tired and seemed at times close to tears as he read out his statement and answered questions. He said he had "little doubt" that Mr Obara was guilty and called the death of his daughter "the acts of a filthy animal preying on beauty and vulnerability".

He said he carried the images in his head "of her cut-up body, the chainsaw marks on her bones ... and the loneliness of the cave in Miura", and thought constantly about her death. "Was she in pain, was she terrified, did she call for me? These despicable crimes against us must receive the absolute maximum penalty, and longest possible sentence. The eyes of the eyes of the world believe the charge should be murder, the sentence death. I concur." Mr Obara is not charged with murder and faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Last week Lucie's mother, Jane Steare, also tearfully urged the court to pass "the most severe sentence in its power," saying: "To lose a child and to know her body was desecrated in such an evil way is the greatest and most unrelenting pain I have ever had to endure."

Throughout the trial, which began in December 2000, the prosecution has portrayed Mr Obara as a rich playboy businessman who preyed on women in the Roppongi nightclub area of Tokyo during the 1990s, usually drugging them with chloroform and raping them. Another woman he is accused of attacking, Carita Ridgway, an Australian, died in a Tokyo hospital in 1992.

Mr Blackman said he was working, through the Lucie Blackman Trust in the UK, to "raise the awareness of safety amongst young people," but added that the Japanese authorities had made "no real inroads" into dealing with the issues behind his daughter's death.

Thousands of young foreign women work illegally in Japan's entertainment industry, a trade the police have been accused of not doing enough to supervise.

Only death will release me from the pain

This is an edited version of Tim Blackman's statement

The death of my daughter, Lucie Blackman, has been the most terrible event of my life. The shock and trauma has changed me and has changed my life.

On 1 September 1978, I watched as she drew her first breath, changing from blue to pink, as she came to life as my first-born child, when I was only 26. From that moment I have loved her like only a father can love his first daughter - and so started that very, very special love we had.

Her death has left me shattered, empty and numb. Lucie lived for about 8,000 days. I carry images of her in my mind and there are many things everyday which make me cry in public, in business meetings, when with friends and in the night.

Sometimes when I see a child in a pushchair I can see Lucie, and tears come to my eyes. I see children with their daddy in a park and their fun and joy makes me so sad for Lucie ... Seeing a woman with her children makes me think of how Lucie will never be.

The terrible acts played out on my beautiful girl are acts of a disgusting creature, a filthy animal preying on beauty and vulnerability. Any sentence less than the maximum permissible will not deliver the deserved justice and would be a dishonourable insult to Lucie's life and Lucie's death.

I hear her voice in my sleep and, for a moment, I forget she is dead. For a moment I feel the joy of hearing her voice and then the pain hits me because I know she is not there, and I know I can only dream of her now.

I have been left with a depth of indescribable sadness. I do not sleep properly, I cry often uncontrollably. Only death will release me from this pain. Only knowing that when I die I will feel her arms around my neck again, helps me live.

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