Suspect in case of missing Tokyo hostess 'bought motorboat before arrest'

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The Independent Online

The man suspected of being behind the disappearance of the British bar hostess Lucie Blackman in Tokyo bought a new motorboat days before his arrest last week, prompting speculation in the Japanese media that he may have intended to dispose of her body at sea.

The man suspected of being behind the disappearance of the British bar hostess Lucie Blackman in Tokyo bought a new motorboat days before his arrest last week, prompting speculation in the Japanese media that he may have intended to dispose of her body at sea.

Ms Blackman, 22, vanished on 1 July after going to meet a customer from the Casablanca club where she worked. A call to her best friend from Lucie the same day was traced to a mobile owned by Joji Ohara, a 48-year-old businessman and property owner, according to Japanese reports.

Mr Ohara, who is said to be denying the accusations against him, has been held by Tokyo police since Friday, for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting a 23-year-old Canadian four years ago.

Mr Ohara spent £23,000 on a 23ft motor boat last week, according to Japanese media reports yesterday. He took the boat to a marina close to an apartment that he rented south-west of Tokyo.

Several Western bar hostesses have been interviewed by the police seeking evidence of other alleged attacks. They have removed from Mr Ohara's various homes large boxes full of videos and photographs, some of which are said to show him having sex with apparently drugged and bound captives. They have also done excavations in at least one of his gardens, and on a beach near a seaside apartment.

Mr Ohara has remained silent, and the police communicate only by means of unattributable leaks to selected Japanese journalists.

Yesterday's reports quote the unnamed manager of a motorboat dealership in the city of Yokohama, south of Tokyo. He is reported as saying that Mr Ohara bought the boat on 1 October in a state of agitated haste.

Not only did he choose one of the first boats he saw on display, he asked for the customary two-week delivery time to be reduced to one. According to the reports he pointedly refused to allow the dealer to keep a copy of his boat licence and the photograph it bore. He asked in detail about the best way of sailing to the Izu chain, a series of volcanic islands 70 miles to the south. He also asked repeatedly about how to identify Japanese coastguard vessels.

Last week, attention was focused on the garden of Mr Ohara's large suburban house in the Tokyo suburbs. At the weekend, the media circus decamped to the seaside town of Miura, where he has a house, and where he was reported to have been seen late at night carrying a spade on the beach. Yesterday, attention switched to the nearby marina, where his boat is believed to be moored.

Last week, Japanese police asked the Blackman family for DNA samples of Lucie, but later said they were not necessary.

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