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Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Lack of progress in search for Hawker's killer frustrates family
The family of slain Briton Lindsay Ann Hawker expressed discontent with police Tuesday over the stalled hunt for Tatsuya Ichihashi, the prime suspect in her 2007 murder.
"We may as well call (Ichihashi) an invisible man because he is invisible to police," the victim's father, Bill Hawker, said angrily at a news conference at the British Embassy in Tokyo.
The Chiba Prefectural Police briefed the family — Hawker, his wife, Julia, and two daughters, Louise and Lisa — on Monday. But at the briefing, the family learned "Japanese police are no closer today to (apprehending Ichihashi) than they were when he slipped through their fingers two years ago," Bill Hawker said.
The family arrived in Japan on Sunday for a five-day stay, to receive the police update and to raise the profile of the hunt for Ichihashi by speaking to the media.
During their stay, the fifth time Bill Hawker has visited Japan since his daughter's slaying, the family will hand out fliers at the Gyotoku Police Station in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, and meet Sora no Kai, an organization calling for the abolishment of the statute of limitations for murders.
The body of the 22-year-old Hawker was found buried in sand in a bathtub on the balcony of Ichihashi's condo in Ichikawa on March 26, 2007.
A bare-footed Ichihashi, 30, escaped capture when nine police officers went to his home that day to investigate the disappearance of Hawker, a teacher with the now-defunct Nova language school chain.
Ichihashi is still at large despite being on the Chiba Prefectural Police's wanted list and having a bounty of ¥1 million on his head.
"Why did nine policemen go to his apartment and wait outside so long before going in? Why and how do the nine policemen let a bare-footed man escape from that apartment? More importantly, now, two years on tomorrow (from when Hawker is believed to have died), why haven't they caught him? We ask ourselves these questions every day," Julia Hawker said.
However, all four family members said everyone they meet in Japan knows of the slaying and Ichihashi, indicating that police efforts to raise awareness among the public have paid off to some extent.
Chiba police have received about 6,000 tips from the public regarding Ichihashi.
Earlier this month, police placed five life-size cardboard figures of Ichihashi that play a recording of his voice in Chiba and Tokyo, as his voice will remain the same even if he undergoes surgery to change his facial features.
But the family believes the five figures are not enough.
"When when we got told there are five, we thought, 'five . . . hundred or thousand?' (They said) no, five. One, two, three, four, five," Bill Hawker said.
Regarding a media report that Ichihashi may have committed suicide, Bill Hawker said the family believes he is still alive. Julia Hawker added that police told her they also believe Ichihashi is alive and living in Japan.