On March 26, 2007, a cluster of plainclothes police officers gathered around a drab apartment block in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture. English teacher Lindsay Hawker had been absent from her job with the Nova conversation school chain for several days. Friends knew Hawker had been scheduled to meet a student, Tatsuya Ichihashi.
Ichihashi had been arrested before for assaulting a woman, making him a person of interest. He was not a large man, but he was wiry and fit. When the officers tried to apprehend him as he left his apartment, he slipped their grasp. He would go on the lam for 2½ years.
Inside the apartment were signs of a violent struggle: Hawker's belongings and clothing were strewn about. On the balcony, in a bathtub filled with sand and compost, they found the 22-year-old Briton. She had been beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled. Though Hawker's killer had been a private student, not a Nova client, the incident underscores the dangers young women face teaching overseas, even in a country touted for its safety.