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Friday, July 22, 2011
Ichihashi gets life for Hawker rape, murder
Court rejects claim Briton's death accidental
By SETSUKO KAMIYA and JUN HONGO
CHIBA — Tatsuya Ichihashi was sentenced to life Thursday at the Chiba District Court for the rape and murder of Lindsay Ann Hawker, whose body was found abandoned in a soil-filled bathtub at his apartment in March 2007.
Calling his crimes selfish and heinous, presiding Judge Shinya Hotta said the 32-year-old's testimony was unreliable and contrary to the evidence.
"He has not faced the crimes committed and we cannot acknowledge any attitude of deep regret," he said.
The Hawker family, who had flown from England to Japan for the sentencing, expressed satisfaction with the ruling.
"We waited a long time for today," Bill Hawker, Lindsay's father, said. "We have achieved (justice for Lindsay) today."
Hawker's father also praised Japanese police "who never stopped working hard."
"Thank you to the Japanese people and press and individuals who apprehended Ichihashi," he added.
One of the prosecutors said the Hawker family seemed satisfied when briefed about the ruling.
Ichihashi was charged with rape resulting in death, murder and abandoning the corpse of the victim, an English teacher from England, in the high-profile case.
While admitting to raping Hawker and abandoning her body, Ichihashi denied he intended to kill her — a contention the court rejected.
Evidence showed Ichihashi choked Hawker for "at least three minutes," Hotta said. "It is common sense that a human being will suffocate" under such circumstances, he added, thus siding with the prosecutor's claim that Ichihashi clearly intended to take her life.
"The defendant's argument over the intent cannot be trusted," Hotta said.
During the trial, Ichihashi claimed he wrapped her in his arms for only about a minute and was not aware he was pressing her neck.
Siding with the defense on one point, the court agreed that Ichihashi should be punished separately for rape and murder, not for rape resulting in death, because Hawker died hours after the rape and there was no evidence that Ichihashi was trying to rape her again when she was strangled.
Prosecutors argued that Ichihashi killed her and tried to hide her body to avoid being arrested for rape.
Ichihashi told the court that Hawker died when he got on top of her to stop her from screaming and escaping, which he said took place some hours after the rape.
The court said that marks on Hawker's neck prove Ichihashi "had the clear intent to kill."
A forensics expert who performed an autopsy on Hawker testified that it would take at least three to five minutes for a person to suffocate, evidence, prosecutors claimed, of Ichihashi's strong intent to kill.
The judges said the defendant's claim that he was not aware that his arms were pressed against her neck was not credible, and that it is likely he put pressure on the victim's neck for an extended period of time to induce lethal harm.
During the six sessions of the trial, which opened July 4, Ichihashi said he met Hawker at Gyotoku Station in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, a few days before the murder.
According to Ichihashi, he followed her to Nishifunabashi Station, believing she was a Caucasian woman he had met before.
Although Hawker told Ichihashi he had mistaken her for someone else, he followed her to her apartment and asked for a private English conversation lesson.
According to Ichihashi, after a lesson at a cafe few days later on March 25, 2007, the two went to his apartment, so he could pay her for the lesson, after which he lost self-control and raped her.
Lindsay's parents, William and Julia Hawker, both took the witness stand to ask the court to hand down the death penalty, on grounds that Ichihashi showed no mercy to their defenseless daughter.
They also expressed disgust at Ichihashi's book, published earlier this year, claiming that as the result of a murder it was distasteful.
Ichihashi said he wanted the family to accept the ¥9.1 million he raised from the royalties of the book, which described his 32 months on the run before his arrest in November 2009.
Ichihashi fled barefoot from his apartment when police came to quiz him on Hawker's disappearance, after they were told by her friends that he had stalked her.
During his time as a fugitive, Ichihashi worked construction jobs and changed his appearance, via plastic surgery and self-mutilation. He was caught while waiting to catch a ferry bound for Okinawa after photos were circulated showing his appearance after it was altered.