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Friday, July 22, 2011

'Finally we have justice': Lindsay Hawker's father weeps as Ichihashi is sentenced to life for her murder

-Parents and sisters in court as killer found guilty after four and a half years

By Daily Mail Reporter

The father of murdered teacher Lindsay Hawker said his family had finally achieved justice after her killer was jailed for life in Japan today.

Tatsuya Ichihashi, 32, was sentenced for the rape and murder of Miss Hawker, 22, in March 2007.

He went on the run for nearly three years after the killing, undergoing extensive cosmetic surgery to change his appearance.

An emotional Bill Hawker, surrounded by his family, speaks outside the Chiba courtroom. The Hawkers had asked for the death penalty but said today they were happy with the life sentence

In an emotional speech after the sentencing at Chiba District Court, Miss Hawker's father Bill said: 'We've waited four-and-a-half years to get justice for Lindsay. We have achieved that today, and we are very pleased.'

Thanking the Japanese authorities for persisting in their efforts to catch the killer, he said: 'Lindsay loved Japan and you have not let her down.'

Ichihashi admitted raping and strangling the English language teacher but said he did not mean to kill her.

However, the judges and jurors jointly hearing his trial rejected his claims and ruled that he intended to murder her.

Mr Hawker, his wife Julia and their other daughters, Lisa, 29, and Louise, 25, flew into Tokyo yesterday so they could attend today's hearing.

The brutal murder shocked Japan and the courtroom was packed with people who had queued for hours to secure one of the 60 seats in the public gallery.

At an earlier hearing Mr Hawker asked the court to give Ichihashi the 'heaviest punishment' possible under Japanese law - theoretically the death penalty.

Leeds University graduate Miss Hawker, from Brandon, near Coventry, travelled to Japan in October 2006 to work as an English teacher with the Nova language school.

Murdered: Lindsay Hawker was raped and strangled by Tatsuya Ichihashi, right, who was today jailed for life

Justice: Bill and Julia Hawker with their daughters Louise (left) and Lisa surrounded by reporters in Tokyo as Lindsay Hawker's killer Tatsuya Ichihashi is sentenced to life in jail

She was last seen alive after giving her killer an English lesson in a coffee shop on March 25 2007.

Ichihashi went on the run after Japanese police discovered the young teacher's battered and bound body buried naked in a sand-filled bathtub on the balcony of his flat in Ichikawa City, east of Tokyo.

A massive manhunt was launched, with police offering a 10 million yen (£77,700) reward and putting up wanted posters around the country.

He was finally arrested at a ferry terminal in the city of Osaka in western Japan in November 2009.

Ichihashi has since published a book in which he confessed to the killing and described how he underwent often grisly cosmetic surgery in an attempt to disguise his features and evade capture.

He claimed he wrote the work, called Until The Arrest, as a 'gesture of contrition for the crime I committed' and has promised to donate all proceeds to Miss Hawker's family.

Ichihashi told his murder trial on July 4 that he enticed Miss Hawker into his apartment and raped her.

He said he strangled her because he feared neighbours would hear her screams and call the police.

He admitted causing her death but said he did not intend to murder her and could not remember strangling her.

At the start of the trial he had dropped to the courtroom floor and knelt before Mr and Mrs Hawker.

Shackled at his wrists and dressed in a black shirt with jeans hanging around his hips, he bowed repeatedly and refused to get up. Eventually he was dragged off the floor by two guards.

Mr Hawker, previously asked how the death of Lindsay had affected them, said: ‘We live in a different world now. Our close family don’t know how to approach us.

'We don’t go out because people don’t know what to say to us. I have to take drugs to counter my depression and I feel constantly angry.

'They say time heals when you have a tragedy like this, but it doesn’t.’

Speaking to the court about Ichihashi's offer of proceeds from his book, he said: ‘I don’t want anything off Ichihashi.

'I only want justice for my daughter. He wouldn’t have made any money if he hadn’t murdered my daughter.’

Pleading for his life: A court sketch of Ichihashi shows him prostrate in front of the Hawkers, an attempt to show contrition and avoid the death penalty

Face change:Tatsuya Ichihashi spent two and a half years on the run following Miss Hawker's murder and underwent plastic surgery to evade capture. He is pictured here before, left, and after the operations

Together: CCTV footage released by Japanese police shows Lindsay with Ichihashi just hours before her death



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