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Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011

Ichihashi recalls manhunt stress


Staff writer

Accused killer Tatsuya Ichihashi's book released Wednesday offers anecdotal accounts of his 31-month life on the run, from fears of being caught and listening to radio updates on the manhunt, to moments of awe over nature, to how he abstained from sex because of what he had done, and how it may feel to be hanged.

He writes about his determination to alter his appearance to keep one step ahead of the law, and how he even dared a visit to Tokyo Disneyland, but offers no insights into why Briton Lindsay Ann Hawker was slain in his Chiba apartment.

As reported earlier, Ichihashi said he wrote the 283-page book "as part of an act of contrition" for Hawker's slaying and added he is "aware of the criticism it may bring on me."

Ichihashi begins his first chapter depicting the initial escape on the night of March 26, 2007. The visit from the police to his apartment and the subsequent escape reminded him of a line from the movie "Heat," Ichihashi wrote. In the film, a bank robber played by Robert De Niro says one should be able to "walk out . . . in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner."

"I hid in a neighbor's front yard for a while" after running from the scene, Ichihashi recalled. "I was thirsty and my throat ached and I tried not to breathe to keep quiet" with one knee on the ground.

Contradicting reports that Ichihashi ran empty-handed, the book said he had his apartment keys, a portable music player, a watch and wallet that contained approximately ¥50,000. Both his shoes and socks came off during the escape and he was running barefoot, wearing only a T-shirt and jeans, he wrote.

Ichihashi also comes clean about his attempts to change his appearance, including sewing his nose with needles in a public lavatory on his first night on the lam. He also recalled how Hawker mentioned his distinctive lips during a conversation, and how he used scissors to slice up parts of them later on. Before saving enough to undergo proper cosmetic surgery, Ichihashi also used a small knife to cut off two moles on his face.

The accused killer also said he was initially eating out of trash bins behind hotels and convenience stores. The only three things on his mind were "what to eat, where to use the toilet and where to sleep," he wrote, until he became used to sleeping in parks, parking lots and under bridges.

And by April 2007, Ichihashi was comfortable enough to make a religious pilgrimage to Shikoku.

"Having Lindsay come back to life as if nothing had happened — that was my only wish," he wrote about his visit to temples designated holy by Buddhist priest Kobo Daishi, adding he often listened to radio news programs to check the progress on his investigation.

Confessing he had "no courage to commit suicide," he eventually decided to take shelter on Ohajima, a tiny island off Kumejima in Okinawa that he learned about in a library book.

There, he gathered fish, crabs, snakes and sea cucumbers for food but had a hard time finding fresh water. During the daytime he kept to a cavelike shelter on the island to avoid being spotted by locals and tourists, he wrote.

But Ichihashi also mentioned some of the joys of living in the wild, including an encounter with a flock of giant butterflies "which would have made an enthusiast jealous."

"Once I was listening to the radio in the hut and they played 'Born to be Wild,' which I danced to," he wrote.

According to the book, Ichihashi's life as a fugitive was spent as a construction worker mainly in the Kansai region, but he would also fled to Ohajima whenever he felt the authorities closing in. The construction work provided enough for him to live on his own, at times paying him ¥300,000 a month. Chapters covering his stints in construction include detailed illustrations Ichihashi drew of his workplaces.

Despite writing that trivialities, including a man talking on a cell phone, and surveillance cameras in stations, made him nervous, Ichihashi also said he was able to enjoy respites, including a visit to Disneyland in Chiba Prefecture.

A lot of time was spent alone reading, he wrote, including "Crime and Punishment," Haruki Murakami's works, and an English copy of "A Catcher in the Rye." He also read some of the Harry Potter novels recommended to him by Hawker.

Ichihashi wrote that on his days off from work, he would tell his coworkers he was going out to "buy some girls" but was in fact not seeking company. "Regarding sex, I had been afraid of myself ever since I did such a thing to Lindsay," he wrote, without elaborating on the details.

Ichihashi also said in the book that reading the newspapers made him realize the magnitude of what he had done, adding that a picture of Hawker on the news "was very pretty."

"I told myself that anyone would escape, and kept on running" when he heard news that Hawker's family was in Tokyo to raise awareness of the murder, Ichihashi wrote.

But some news shows were broadcasting lies, he wrote, including a report that he was being sheltered by friends. Ichihashi wrote he never contacted his family or friends during his time as a fugitive, and gossip that he was living as a male prostitute in Shinjuku, Tokyo, was also absurd.

In closing the book, Ichihashi said any proceeds from the publication should be provided to the Hawker family or put to the common good.

The naked body of 22-year-old Lindsay Hawker was found stuffed in a sand-filled bathtub at Ichihashi's Chiba apartment after he fled the scene. She had been reported missing by her roommates and the Nova language school where she worked. Police had suspected Ichihashi after Hawker's roommates said he had been stalking the Briton, pressing for her to teach him English.

Ichihashi has told investigators that he taped Hawker's mouth and tied her up in his apartment.

His book doesn't provide any thoughts by Ichihashi on the upcoming trial, but he touches on his possible punishment, briefly saying he wondered what it would feel like to be hanged.

The book, "Taiho Sarerumade — Kuuhaku no Ninen Nanakagetsu no Kiroku" ("Before I Was Arrested — Records of the Blank Two Years and Seven Months"), published by Gentosha Inc., spans the time between Ichihashi's flight from police at his Chiba apartment in March 2007 to the moment of his arrest at an Osaka terminal for an Okinawa-bound ferry in November 2009.

Ichihashi's trial is expected to start later this year, and it may be one involving lay judges.



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