Japan tries man over British teacher's killing

4th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

A Japanese man accused of raping and killing British teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker and leaving her bound and battered body in a sand-filled bathtub was due to go on trial Monday.

The defendant, Tatsuya Ichihashi, 32, spent more than two-and-a-half years on the run across Japan, undergoing plastic surgery several times to evade capture, before he was arrested in November 2009 in Osaka.

The family of Hawker, who was killed in March 2007, has travelled to Japan and were due to speak during the trial in Chiba district court southeast of Tokyo, which was expected to reach a verdict on July 21.

Six citizen jurors and three professional judges were due to judge the high-profile case under Japan's limited jury system.

Hawker, from Brandon near Coventry, was 22 years old and working as an English teacher in Chiba prefecture, where Ichihashi was one of her students.

Her body, bound at the wrists and ankles with plastic cord, was found in a sand-filled bathtub on the balcony of Ichihashi's apartment in Ichikawa, Chiba.

Ichihashi faces murder and rape charges, which he denies, and could face the death penalty if convicted.

He has admitted to a charge of abandoning her body, and his defence team is expected to argue that the killing was accidental.

Hawker's parents, Bill and Julia, and her sisters, who arrived in Japan on Sunday, will be allowed to speak as prosecution witnesses during the opening session, and again before sentencing.

The father said before leaving London's Heathrow airport: "We're a strong family and we're going to see this through to the end. All we want is justice for Lindsay."

Hawker's family have repeatedly visited Japan and voiced frustration at police for failing to catch the suspect. Police later raised a cash reward for information leading to his arrest to more than $100,000.

Ichihashi was caught after a witness tip-off at an Osaka ferry terminal as he tried to catch a boat to the southern island of Okinawa.

He had undergone plastic surgery to his eyelids and nose and had a facial mole removed in an effort to alter his appearance.

© 2011 AFP

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