Court upholds life sentence for Ichihashi

by Minoru Matsutani

Staff Writer

The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday upheld Tatsuya Ichihashi’s life sentence for raping and murdering English teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker, ruling he intended to kill her.

“The defendant killed the victim with selfish motives of satisfying his libido and hiding his criminal act” of raping her, presiding Judge Yoshinobu Iida said in handing down the ruling.

The focus of the high court trial was whether Ichihashi, 33, had known his left arm was under Hawker’s neck. Ichihashi’s lawyers argued he had not and therefore he did not intend to kill her in March 2007 in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture.

Ichihashi detained and raped Hawker in his apartment. When she was crawling on her stomach trying to escape, he overpowered and strangled her by applying pressure on her neck with his left arm. “An arm’s touch on a neck must be different from a chin or other parts of a body, and thus it is impossible for him not to realize his left arm was pressuring (Hawker’s) neck,” Iida said.

Lawyers for Ichihashi, who was given a life sentence by the Chiba District Court last July, argued that 20 to 30 years would be a more appropriate sentence.

Ichihashi remained on the run for two years and seven months after fleeing police seeking to question him at his apartment about Hawker’s disappearance.

The police had been tipped off by Hawker’s friends that Ichihashi had been stalking her. Her body was found in a sand-filled bathtub in his apartment.

Ichihashi’s time on the lam also appeared to have left a negative impression on the judges. “The defendant had been hiding for two years and seven months because he wanted to avoid facing criminal responsibility,” Iida said.

Ichihashi wrote a book on how he avoided being arrested for 31 months. He offered to give Hawker’s family ¥9.12 million in royalties from the book’s sales, but the family refused it. He donated the money and ¥300,000 of his own funds to the Nippon Foundation to support crime victims, but the high court judges appeared unfazed by Ichihashi’s gestures.

“The donation was merely intended to take civil responsibility,” Iida said. “It ended up emotionally hurting the victim’s family even further.”