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Friday, July 08, 2011

Tatsuya Ichihashi Trial Begins

市橋達也 リンゼイ・アン・ホーカー

The long, protracted Tatsuya Ichihashi case has finally reached trial at Chiba District Court near Tokyo at the beginning of this week. Long queues for the public gallery were in evidence as interest in this remarkable case has risen amongst the general public in Japan.

The parents and two sisters of the victim, Lindsay Ann Hawker, were in court to see Ichihashi plead guilty to Lindsay's rape and death but not her wilful murder. At the start of the trial Ichihashi bowed low to the victim's family and offered his apologies.

Tatsuya Ichihashi

On 24 March 2007, Tatsuya Ichihashi (now 32 years old), a loner living in Chiba, near Tokyo, and supported by his affluent Gifu-resident parents, enticed Ms. Hawker, a 22-year-old English teacher from Coventry, UK, back to his flat after a pre-arranged English-language lesson in a nearby coffee shop.

Later Ms. Hawker's body was discovered in a sand and compost-filled bathtub on Ichihashi's balcony.

Ichihashi later escaped barefoot from the group of nine Japanese policemen sent to question him over Lindsay's disappearance.

Ichihashi, who was on the run fom the law for 2 years and 7 months, had extensive plastic surgery in Nagoya and other Japanese cities, cosmetic surgery which included lip-thinning and cheek implants.

While a renegade from justice, Ichihashi worked as a construction worker, installing home solar panels in Ibaraki, Osaka, for about 14 months and also spent time on a remote island in Okinawa. Japanese police believe Ichihashi may have been attempting to finally escape abroad before his capture, as he had documents for a pending passport application and an English-Japanese phrasebook in his company dormitory in Osaka.

Ichihashi or "Dai-chan" as he was known to co-workers left the company suddenly and attempted to flee as the net began to close. His former colleagues relate how he never removed his hat, always bathed alone and had an aversion to being photographed.

Ichihashi was finally picked up at Osaka port while awaiting a boat to Okinawa. After his arrest, Ichihashi published a controversial book detailing his life on the run.

Evidence presented in court on the first day of the trial included CCTV footage of Ichihashi and Hawker entering an elevator together and photographs of Lindsay's hair that Ichihashi may have cut as a trophy.

Presiding judge Hotta Masaya is expected to deliver a verdict on July 21 after discussions among the six lay judges, who are members of the public, and three professional judges.

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