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A glance at the murder of Lindsay Ann Hawker

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

Police were first aware that Lindsay Ann Hawker was missing on March 26, 2007, after the Briton failed to teach English classes scheduled for two consecutive days. They found her naked body buried in a bathtub filled with sand and compost soil on Tatsuya Ichihashi’s apartment’s balcony that evening.

Ichihashi, 28 at the time, met Hawker around midnight on March 20, 2007, on a Tozai Line train. He ran after her as she cycled home from Nishi-Funabashi Station to her apartment and asked her to give him a private English lesson. He was very persistent. Court documents show he drew a sketch of Hawker on a piece of paper, signing it with his name, phone number and email address.

After a few exchanges by email, the two agreed to meet for a lesson on March 25. At the end of the lesson around 10 a.m., the killer claimed he didn’t have enough cash on him — ¥3,500 — to pay and invited Hawker back to his home near Gyotoku Station in Chiba Prefecture in order to pick up the fee.

Upon entering the room, Ichihashi “hit the victim in the face, then used restraining bands to tie up her wrists,” according to the court ruling. He then raped Hawker. Although Ichihashi claimed the two struggled for only a few minutes, the court documents show that Hawker had heavy bruises around her right eye that are consistent with a fist. She also had contusions on other parts of her body that may have resulted from collisions with furniture.

The court later judged that Hawker was alive until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. on March 26, when Ichihashi choked her to death using his hands. The strangling continued for at least three minutes. Later in the day, Ichihashi left his home to purchase garden soil, a shovel, deodorants and a substance to decompose waste.

Hawker was scheduled to give classes on March 25 and 26, but missed both days. Alarmed by her absence, her school called the police. Upon visiting Hawker’s condo and finding Ichihashi’s sketch and his contact number, around nine police officers gathered at his apartment in the evening of March 26. The killer and the police ran into each other but after exchanging a few words Ichihashi escaped, leaving his rucksack behind and losing his shoes along the way. Hawker’s body was found buried in the bathtub on the balcony a few minutes later.

The whereabouts of Ichihashi remained unknown for the next 31 months, but Hawker’s family made repeated visits to Japan and requested help from the general public. “He murdered my daughter and he might murder again,” William Hawker, Lindsay’s father, said during a news conference in March 2008.

After Ichihashi was finally caught, the killer threw himself on the ground in front of the victim’s family and begged for forgiveness as his trial opened at the Chiba District Court on July 4, 2011. While acknowledging that he raped and caused Hawker’s death, he denied the murder was intentional. “I did not intend to murder Lindsay, but I am responsible for her death and I intend to take the blame for it,” Ichihashi told the judges.

The trial focused on whether Ichihashi killed Hawker intentionally or whether it was an accidental death while trying to prevent her from escaping and screaming for help. Ichihashi’s motives were “extremely selfish” and his crimes “heinous,” the Chiba District Court said in handing a life-term imprisonment sentence to Ichihashi on July 21, 2011. “We cannot detect any attitude of deep regret (from the killer).”