Man held over missing Lucie

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Police searching for missing Briton Lucie Blackman are questioning a Japanese businessman in connection with her disappearance.

Police searching for missing Briton Lucie Blackman are questioning a Japanese businessman in connection with her disappearance.

Joji Obara, 48, was arrested in Tokyo and charged with abduction, indecent assault and drugging another Western woman.

The attacks took place up to four years ago.

Police are linking him to Lucie after tracing a telephone call she made to a friend at the time she went missing to his mobile phone.

Officers have raided properties throughout Japan owned by Obara.

Lucie, 22, vanished while working at one of Tokyo's hostess bars 18 weeks ago.

The Foreign Office confirmed Japanese police had informed it of the arrest.

A spokesman added: "We're pleased to learn of the apparent progress in the case. We await further news from the police."

Lucie's father, property restorer Tim Blackman, 47, from his home in Ryde, Isle of Wight, said: "It's certainly a great help. It's obviously a significant step forward in the investigation and we are pleased that the police have got to this stage with it.

"But until the time that we have got the geographical whereabouts or until we've got Lucie back it's just pinpointing the worry all the more.

"We've been rumbling along (until now) and we have just been coping with with it. Then suddenly it's all over the papers and we start again to wonder: "Where is she?"

He added: "They have made an arrest in connection with Lucie but they are charging him with something else.

"That's usual practice, to give them more time to investigate."

Miss Blackman failed to return from a night out with a work contact on July 1.

She had been working as a bar hostess at the Casablanca bar in the Roppongi district - where Western girls are paid nearly £30 an hour plus bonuses - with her best friend Louise Phillips of Bromley, Kent.

The two women were living in a rented flat in Tokyo for six weeks after quitting their jobs as air hostesses to travel around Australia and the Far East.

After Lucie failed to return, Miss Phillips received a call on her mobile phone from an unknown man saying her friend was going to join a "newly-risen religion", which are known as "cults" in Japan.

He also said in broken English that he would pay off Lucie's debts.

A reward of £100,000 has been offered for information leading to the discovery of Lucie's whereabouts.

Mr Blackman also disclosed two other Western women, including one Briton, had been drugged and photographed while working in the Japanese capital.

He said he had been approached by them soon after Lucie went missing and had passed the information on to the police before today's arrest.

Speaking at a news conference in Portsmouth today, Mr Blackman said: "Apparently (Obara) is the son of an even larger property tycoon and knowing a little bit about the way the hierarchy in Japanese society works the Japanese police would want to be absolutely watertight on any accusation they are going to make to a person of this status."

But he said hopes were fading for his daughter's safety. "It certainly doesn't look good for Lucie.

"We have of course maintained an optimism throughout this affair which has given us the impetus for and courage to deal with the whole issue, which has been completely alien to us."

Asked what he would say to the man who had taken Lucie, he said: "I think we would have to say to him that the Japanese people won't put up with it and the UK people won't put up with it and he should do the honourable thing and put his hands up and come clean."

He also disclosed that he had been approached by two English-speaking women who claimed to have been drugged in similar circumstances to Lucie, but had lived to tell the tale.

Mr Blackman said: "Two women came to us at a very early stage (of our investigations) and they said they didn't know whether it was relevant but this is what happened to us.

"They described that they had gone out to a meal of some description and they had a drink and had woken up in a strange place.

"One of them saw that this man was photographing her and the other said she had had a similar experience.

"Neither admitted to us that they had been sexually assaulted but there were many similarities to the geographical area (where Lucie was last seen)."

In London, the Foreign Office said: "The police in Tokyo informed our embassy this morning that they would be arresting a man in connection with Lucie's disappearance.

"We are pleased to learn of the apparent progress in the case. We await further news from the police."

Comments