Japanese man gets life for murder of British woman

21st July 2011, Comments 0 comments

A 32-year-old Japanese man was on Thursday sentenced to life imprisonment for raping and killing British teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker in 2007, before burying her battered body in a sand-filled bathtub.

Tatsuya Ichihashi -- who spent more than two-and-a-half years on the run after the 2007 crime and had plastic surgery to evade capture -- had admitted raping his English teacher but said he killed her accidentally.

Prosecutors had demanded life for Ichihashi, condemning his crime as "coarse and extremely self-centered."

As the presiding judge read out the ruling, a motionless Ichihashi stared at the ground, NTV reported.

Hawker's family -- her father, mother and two sisters visiting Japan to hear the verdict -- repeatedly wiped tears and nodded many times in approval as the sentence was read out, it said.

Hawker's father Bill had earlier urged the Chiba district court to show "no mercy" and called for the death penalty -- a punishment usually reserved for cases of multiple homicide.

Hawker's parents were also present at Ichihashi's trial, which took place between July 4 and 12, and gave testimony.

Their daughter Lindsay, from a village near Coventry in central England, was 22 when her body -- naked and bound at the wrists and ankles -- was found in a bathtub filled with sand on the balcony of Ichihashi's apartment.

The autopsy showed she died of suffocation, and prosecutors said Ichihashi strangled her after the rape.

Ichihashi testified that after raping her, he bound her and spoke to her for hours, seeking forgiveness. He says she choked to death when he covered her mouth to stop her from screaming for help but he did not mean to kill her.

After the killing, Ichihashi went on the run, working in temporary jobs between Aomori in Japan's north and Okinawa island in the far south.

He used the money from odd jobs to pay for cosmetic surgery, altering his eyelids and nose and having a facial mole removed in an effort to evade police.

Ichihashi, whose wanted poster was a common sight at police stations and public offices across Japan, was caught in November 2009 after a witness tip-off at a ferry terminal as he tried to catch a boat to Okinawa.

He wrote a book titled "Until the Arrest" about his life on the run and offered the proceeds to the Hawker family, an offer they have declined.

© 2011 AFP

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