Lucie Blackman’s dad sets up trust to help others stay safe

by William Hollingworth

Kyodo

Six years after the murder of Tokyo nightclub hostess Lucie Blackman, her father is hoping some good can come from the tragedy.

Tim Blackman has set up the Lucie Blackman Trust to try to help other people stay safe when away from home.

The English woman went missing in July 2000 at the age of 21. Her dismembered body was found in a cave in Miura, Kanagawa Prefecture. Joji Obara is on trial for her murder.

Prosecutors allege that Obara, a company executive, arranged to meet Blackman, outside of the hostess club where she worked, and drugged and raped her. They say she died July 1, 2000, at his condominium in Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture, after which he dismembered her corpse and hid it in a cave in nearby Miura sometime between July 5 and July 7. His trial is expected to resume later this year.

Young people can now go to the Lucie Blackman Trust’s Web site for advice on how to stay safe when they travel, whether in their home countries or abroad. The site is at www.lucieblackmantrust.org

Blackman and his small team speak at schools and he has helped several British families involved in police investigations overseas.

“I couldn’t have envisaged starting up a trust three or four years ago, because as soon as I thought about Lucie I became too sad,” Blackman said in a recent interview. “Some days I’m not so good about it, but most of the time, because (the trust is) such a positive move and well received . . . it strengthens my resolve to carry on with it on a day-to-day basis.”

Since it began last year, the trust has grown, with more than 2,000 registered members and about 86,000 hits a month on its Web site.

As well as offering basic advice, the site is a gateway to other reliable sources of safety information for people planning to go overseas for pleasure or to attend school.

To help its cover costs, the nonprofit organization sells state-of-the-art security devices, including locks, pepper spray and alarms.

“We will never know if we have averted a tragedy” by providing safety tips, trust employee Matt Searle said. “But the fact that people are downloading the information means that you hope they are taking it in.”

Blackman, who also runs a property development firm, and his team plan to expand the organization’s activities later this year and hope to devote one section of the Internet site to the hostess industry in Japan.

Hundreds of foreign women come to Japan every year to work as hostesses in nightclubs. It was while Blackman’s daughter was working as a hostess that she came into contact with the man who allegedly raped and fatally drugged her.

Blackman plans to publish the lurid journal of a former hostess on the site, so that anyone contemplating such a life will have a realistic picture of the work involved. Some hostesses, whose job is to chat with male clients and pour drinks, are known to engage in prostitution.

“I think there’s a greater emphasis now on the girls getting a visa to do this hostess work. But whether this is true or not, I don’t know. This is what needs to happen. Lucie got a three-month travel visa and that’s what all the girls seem to do,” he said.

The problem with having only a travel visa, Blackman said, is that hostesses who are abused by their clients or employers are reluctant to complain to the police because they are working illegally.

He believes the hostess industry is now more dangerous for women than it was a decade ago as the traditional family-run “snack” bars, which tend to look after their female employees, are falling by the wayside as bigger businesses, often run by foreigners who have close links with the sex industry, take over.

Unless the government does more to regulate the industry, Blackman said hostessing “looks like a pretty nasty thing to get yourself into.”

Blackman would like to incorporate video on the trust’s Web site, which would alert viewers to potential dangers around the world. He also thinks it would be a good idea if young people attended training seminars before they go overseas.

As the public face of the trust, people have called Blackman to help them find family members who have disappeared overseas.

He has drawn on his experience in his daughter’s case to give advice on how to generate publicity in foreign countries, which has often yielded results.

He believes his media campaign to find his daughter — which at times authorities from both countries were eager to manage for fear he would disrupt diplomatic relations — helped ensure the police investigation was more rigorous than it would have been had he not gone public.

As he and his family continue to cope with the aftermath of Lucie’s death, Blackman says that he gets a lot of strength from his activities at the trust.

“I think (the trust’s work) has put me in a far stronger position than I would have been in if Lucie’s death and trial was just going to come to an end and a line would be drawn under it,” he said.

“I have lost Lucie but, on the other hand, her short life has not been an utter waste because she is living on in the hearts and minds of so many people.

“It has been important to capitalize on that quickly and I feel intensely privileged to be able to help Lucie in a strange way to influence these young people in the way they think and what they do.”

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