Japanese man to face verdict over Briton's death
A Japanese court will on Thursday deliver its verdict in the trial of a man accused of the rape and murder of British teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker, whose battered body was found in a sand-filled bathtub.
Tatsuya Ichihashi, 32 -- who spent more than two and a half years on the run after the 2007 crime and had plastic surgery to evade capture -- has admitted raping and killing his English teacher but said he took her life accidentally.
Six citizen jurors and three judges hearing the case are due to give the verdict and sentence in Thursday's session, which is scheduled to begin at 0530 GMT.
Prosecutors have demanded life in jail for Ichihashi, but Hawker's father Bill has urged the Chiba district court to show "no mercy" and called for the death penalty -- a punishment usually reserved in Japan for cases of multiple homicide.
"Hopefully, we will get the verdict that Lindsay deserves," he told journalists at Narita airport on Wednesday as he returned to Japan with Hawker's mother Julia and two sisters.
"We are happy that we are back here for the final time."
Hawker's parents took part in the trial of Ichihashi that took place between July 4 and 12 at the Chiba court, including taking the witness stand.
Their daughter Lindsay, from a village near Coventry in central England, was 22 years old when her body -- naked and bound at the wrists and ankles with plastic cord -- was found in a bathtub filled with sand on the balcony of Ichihashi's apartment.
The autopsy showed she died of suffocation, and prosecutors believe 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.
"I had no intention of murder, but I'm responsible for the death of Ms Lindsay," Ichihashi said on his first day in court. "I'm the one who scared her and left her dead. I'm really, really sorry."
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 has offered the proceeds to the Hawker family, an offer they have declined.
© 2011 AFP