Ichihashi says he couldn’t let Hawker escape

by Setsuko Kamiya

Staff Writer

Accused rapist-murderer Tatsuya Ichihashi said in court Thursday that he did not intentionally kill Briton Lindsay Ann Hawker in March 2007 and that she died while he was preventing her from escaping.

Ichihashi, 32, is charged with rape resulting in death, murder and abandoning Hawker’s corpse. Although he has admitted raping Hawker and leaving her body in a sand-filled bathtub on his apartment balcony before going on the run for 32 months, he maintains he did not intend to kill the 22-year-old English teacher.

Ichihashi’s defense team also argued that the rape did not directly lead to Hawker’s death, a crucial distinction that could influence his sentence should the court find him guilty.

Taking the witness stand on the third session of his lay judge trial before the Chiba District Court, Ichihashi admitted being unable to control his lust and raping Hawker at his apartment on March 25, 2007, after a private English conversation lesson with her in a cafe. But after raping her, he said he felt enormous guilt and regret.

“I didn’t think she would forgive me right away, but I thought that maybe if I talked with Lindsay and we formed a good relationship, maybe she would forgive me,” he said.

Ichihashi told the court he tied up Hawker’s hands and feet when raping her and put her in a portable bathtub in his apartment so she couldn’t escape.

Ichihashi said they discussed various subjects, including a drawing on his wall, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, and different religions.

Ichihashi said he untied her hands at one point, but then became riled when Hawker asked him to free her feet and let her smoke.

“I knew she wanted to escape. I got agitated because I thought if I listened to everything she said, she would run away,” Ichihashi said, admitting he then punched her twice in the face.

“I felt terrible about what I did,” he said. “But as I had raped and beaten her, at that point I thought I couldn’t let her escape.”

After midnight, Ichihashi said he fell asleep for a few hours, and when he woke up and went to check on Hawker he realized that her hands were free. Hawker suddenly punched him in the forehead, managed to get out of the bathtub and started screaming as she tried to crawl away, he said.

Ichihashi said he jumped on top of Hawker and tried to cover her mouth with his arm to restrain her. “I intended to keep her in that position until she stopped trying to escape,” he said.

“I didn’t think she would die,” Ichihashi said, sobbing. “I’m so sorry.”

A forensic expert who performed the autopsy on Hawker testified on the second day of the trial that the victim had choked to death.

Ichihashi also claimed he invited Hawker to his apartment after the English lesson because he had left the fee at his flat.

He said he first saw Hawker five days before the lesson and followed her from Gyotoku Station to Nishifunabashi Station on the Tozai subway line, and then to her apartment, where he asked her to teach him English.

A graduate of Chiba University, Ichihashi said he was learning English at the time because he wanted to study landscape design at a university overseas.