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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Blackman family claims prosecution did not present key evidence in trial

Staff writer

The family of Lucie Blackman on Tuesday slammed the Tokyo District Court's decision to acquit Joji Obara of her death, saying key evidence had mysteriously been left out of the trial.

News photo
Tim Blackman, the father of Lucy Blackman, speaks during a news conference Tuesday in Tokyo alongside his daughter, Sophie. ERIC PRIDEAUX PHOTO

Blackman's father, Tim, and her sister, Sophie, said they were surprised to learn after the verdict was read that details Sophie said "definitely" implicated the 54-year-old businessman had not been presented in court.

"We had no idea, and certainly other people involved in the case had no idea, that the prosecution team would fail in making it stick," Tim Blackman, who was flanked by his daughter and his partner, Josephine Burr, told a room packed with the Japanese and foreign media. "So that's left us feeling completely unresolved."

Neither Blackman's father nor her sister would say what evidence they were referring to, claiming it would jeopardize their chances of a successful appeal. The Blackmans were to request an appeal through the British Embassy.

Sophie Blackman said the omission had, "Less to do with choice and more to do with oversight."

Her father also said senior prosecutors were not available to discuss the outcome of the trial with them. Instead, he said, junior members of the prosecution team spoke to them, and the most senior member of the group had only joined the team this month. He said they listened to their concerns but said they couldn't promise any action without consulting their superiors first.

"It was very difficult to get questions answered that we would have like to have had answered," Tim Blackman said.

The prosecutors appeared oddly unsure of what steps to take next, he said. He and Sophie Blackman have made frequent trips to Japan since her death to push the case forward.

"The prosecution team said, 'Well it's only a low court decision. We can appeal. We can do this, we can do that," he said. "But why wasn't this done over the last four or five years we've been working for it?"

He said Sophie Blackman was very frustrated.

"She's very quiet at the moment," he said, "But she was extremely noisy in the prosecutor's office."

The two said that they had been too busy to contact Lucie Blackman's mother, Jane Steare, who is divorced from Tim Blackman. Steare has also come to Japan a number of times. Sophie Blackman spoke briefly to her brother to inform him of the verdict. The Blackmans arrived Sunday and will return to the U.K. next Wednesday.

Lucie Blackman, a former British Airways flight attendant who had been working as a hostess in Tokyo's Roppongi district, was murdered in July 2000. Her dismembered corpse was found in a cave in Kanagawa Prefecture in February 2001, near one of Obara's residences.

Presiding Judge Tsutomu Tochigi said there was insufficient evidence to find Obara guilty of dismembering and burying Blackman's body. He was acquitted of all charges pertaining to Blackman but sentenced to life for nine other druggings and rapes, including a 1992 sexual assault that ended in the death of Australian Carita Ridgway.

Obara's lawyers have already filed an appeal.

See related stories:
Obara gets life, but beats rap for Blackman
Oddly, raft of circumstantial evidence not enough

For more stories related to the Lucie Blackman case

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