LONDON – The father of murdered Briton Lindsay Ann Hawker said Monday it was “disgraceful” that police did not arrest suspect Tatsuya Ichihashi when they first called at his apartment in Chiba Prefecture following his daughter’s disappearance.
Her mother, Julia, also said she was “disappointed” with the police investigation, claiming they failed to follow up leads and keep the family fully informed of developments.
Due to the lack of progress, the family has now set up a global e-mail campaign to boost awareness about their daughter’s murder and the hunt for the suspect.
The naked and beaten body of Hawker, a 22-year-old English teacher, from Coventry, central England, was found in a sand-filled bathtub on the balcony of Ichihashi’s apartment in Ichikawa on March 26.
Ichihashi, 28, managed to get past several police officers who had been sent to the apartment to question him about her disappearance that evening. He is wanted in connection with the slaying, but the manhunt appears to have made no progress.
Bill Hawker, the victim’s father, said he had received an e-mail from Japanese police saying they did not arrest Ichihashi because there was not enough evidence against him at that stage.
In the past, police said they were merely investigating reports of a missing person at that point and not a murder. Because of this they did not expect the suspect to be aggressive and make a break for it.
At least six officers were sufficiently spread out outside the apartment when police called, but Ichihashi managed to elude them.
But Bill Hawker said in a statement Monday, “We think it is disgraceful that the Japanese police let Ichihashi go when our daughter’s body was lying just yards away.”
Responding to police claims that they were investigating a missing person, he asked, “Why did they send nine officers if they didn’t suspect a crime had been committed?”
“Had he been arrested on suspicion of Lindsay’s abduction, at least he would be facing justice for what he has done,” Julia Hawker said.
“What happened to Lindsay has broken all our hearts, but seeing Ichihashi face justice would have made her murder easier to bear.
“We could have found some peace knowing that he was being punished for taking our beautiful daughter from us. Now we are left in a no man’s land of grief and frustration that her killer hasn’t been caught and we are concerned that he could strike again and leave another family facing a life sentence like we are.”
She said despite it being four months since the murder and 100 officers assigned to the case, police don’t have any clues regarding Ichihashi’s whereabouts.
“We feel very disappointed in the police and frustrated that the lines of communication are so vague,” she said. “Although we understand that there are some aspects of the case the police need to keep confidential, we don’t feel that the standard of the investigation is the same as in the United Kingdom.”
She said the dispatch of British police officers to Japan to improve communications has not worked.
She claims Japanese police appear reluctant to take seriously the possibility that Ichihashi might have fled to another country even though he had traveled to Canada and France previously.
“We have had several reported sightings of him via the Lindsay Ann Hawker Web site, which we set up ourselves, but despite passing them to the police they have not been investigated,” she said.
“We have had to follow them up ourselves. One of the sightings in Canada turned out not to be him and another in Portugal was followed up by us, but although it started to look unlikely that it was him, we can’t be sure.
“We feel like we are conducting our own police investigation at the moment and, as we can’t rule out the fact that Ichihashi may be abroad, we are launching a global e-mail campaign to try to find him and are going on American TV to raise the profile of the case.”
The e-mail, which carries photos of Ichihashi, implores people to “please do not turn a blind eye” and check empty buildings “and new arrivals in your neighborhood.” It is hoped that everyone who receives the e-mail will forward it to family and friends.
The family’s Web site can be found at www.lindsayannhawker.com