Blackman pities ‘pathetic’ Obara

by Julian Ryall

Tim Blackman emerged from the 24th session of the trial of a Japanese businessman feeling “a kind of pity” for the man accused of causing the death of his daughter, Lucie, nearly 3 1/2 years ago.

Thursday’s session at the Tokyo District Court, was the first that Blackman had attended and was the first time he had seen Joji Obara, 50, in person.

“I’d have recognized him in the street, of course, because his face has become so familiar to us,” said Blackman, from the Isle of Wight, England. He was accompanied by his wife, Jo, and Lucie’s sister Sophie. “When he was brought into the court, he knew we were there and he avoided looking at us the whole time.

“We found the entire proceedings very interesting and while we expected to feel emotional and upset, it wasn’t like that at all,” he said. “In fact, Sophie and I agree that we emerged feeling a kind of pity for this pathetic individual who spent the entire four hours of the hearing shuffling papers and trying to look in another direction.”

Lucie began working as a hostess at a nightclub in Tokyo’s Roppongi entertainment district after arriving in Japan in the summer of 2000 from Sevenoaks, in Kent. On July 1, she phoned a friend to say that she was going to the beach with a client on a paid date and that she would be back in Tokyo in a couple of hours.

Seven months later, Lucie’s dismembered body was found buried in a small cave on a beach in the town of Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture. Her remains were only positively identified through dental records.

The Tokyo District Prosecutor’s Office has charged Obara with kidnapping Lucie, rape resulting in her death, and mutilating and abandoning her body. He is also accused of killing another woman, Canadian Carita Ridgeway, in similar circumstances in February 1992, as well as committing six other rapes.

According to his lawyer, Obara denies all the allegations.

Thursday’s court session was given over to testimony from the concierges of the Zushi apartment block where Obara owned a condo. They told the court that they contacted police after excessive noise was reported coming from Obara’s apartment.

Obara, spattered with cement, told a police officer who knocked on his door that he was retiling the bathroom. Lucie’s body was later found in a shallow grave on a beach 200 meters away, her head encased in a block of concrete.

“We are very pleased that we have come back to Tokyo and witnessed proceedings and seen that the judge is using a firm hand,” Blackman said. “We’ve wanted to come for two years now but only recently has the court been hearing about Lucie’s death and while we were worried about attending beforehand, it is now like a large weight off our minds.”

Blackman plans to attend future sessions of Obara’s trial and is likely to be asked to testify by the prosecution as to the impact that Lucie’s death has had on the family. The court is likely to hand down a ruling late next year.

The Blackmans plan to return to London on Friday.