LONDON - The sister of slain Tokyo bar hostess Lucie Blackman has weighed in on the Blackman family feud, calling her mother “venomous” and “destructive.”
Sophie Blackman told the British tabloid magazine Hello! that her family has been damaged by Jane Steare’s public criticism of Tim Blackman for accepting $900,000 in condolence money from an associate of convicted serial rapist Joji Obara, who was recently cleared of Lucie Blackman’s murder, despite a raft of circumstantial evidence.
Obara was sentenced April 24 to life in prison for attacks on nine other women and for causing the death of an Australian hostess by drugging, the same way Blackman is believed to have died.
Sophie said she hadn’t spoken to Steare for two years and described the relationship between her sister and their mother as “turbulent.”
“Mum still berates dad publicly for accepting what she believes to be ‘blood money.’ I, personally, find her attitude damaging. Her stance is destroying me,” Sophie, 26, said in her first full interview since Obara’s stunning acquittal.
“Dad used that money to pay back his family who gave us thousands of pounds so that we could afford to fly back and (forth) to Japan over the last seven years. He has also put a lot of it into the Lucie Blackman Trust, which we set up in memory of Lucie, and for mine and my brother Rupert’s futures.”
Property developer Tim Blackman and Jane Steare split up 12 years ago, but time has not healed their wounds. If anything, things have become worse since Lucie’s slaying, according to Sophie. Lucie Blackman’s dismembered body was found in 2000 in a cave in Miura, Kanagawa Prefecture, steps away from one of Obara’s condos.
“Dad might not have been a brilliant husband to her, but he has always been a very good father. He loves us children unconditionally and I can’t abide my mother slagging him off as a dad just because he left her 12 years ago. She’s very bitter about that,” Sophie said.
“She had a turbulent relationship with Lucie, too. Knowing what we’ve been through, mum hasn’t been very understanding. I find her venomous attack on my dad in the media most damaging. Witnessing her publicly attack my dad is so hard for me to endure. I find spending time with mum so damaging. We haven’t spoken for two years because of it.”
Sophie Blackman told the popular gossip magazine that she had received no message from Steare following the verdict, and fears that the rift between the two of them will never be mended.
Lucie “would feel very sad if she knew how acrimonious the relationship between mum and I has become,” she said.
Steare publicly criticized Tim Blackman’s decision to take the condolence money, calling it “immoral” and saying it jeopardized the case against Obara.
She also has said her ex-husband is exploiting “Sophie’s pain, suffering and medical condition.” Steare has always said her relationship with Lucie Blackman was close and loving.
In the interview, Sophie Blackman recalled her first visit to Japan in summer 2000, days after her sister had disappeared, and the police reluctance to take the case seriously.
“When I went to the police about Lucie’s disappearance, I was rubbished for suspecting something criminal. They seemed to think that a young girl like her would just go off partying without a word to anyone. I knew my sister better than that,” she told Hello!
“When dad and I first went to Tokyo after Lucie’s disappearance, we discovered a lot of indifference from the police toward the girls who complained about being attacked. Because of the nature of their work as hostesses and because many of them didn’t have the correct legal papers to be there, they were dismissed.”
Blackman told Hello! she tried to look as much like Lucie as possible when she was in the Tokyo courtroom to try to jar Obara. She said she felt no emotion toward him until just before the verdict, when the “anger toward him boiled up inside me.”
Blackman also told the tabloid how, on March 23, 2005, she had a mental breakdown after burying Lucie’s ashes at the church near where they lived in southeast England.
“The act of physically burying Lucie’s ashes in the ground was symbolic of what had happened to her. That really spelled the end of her life for me,” Sophie said. “Later in the evening, when all the family had gone home and I was on my own, I felt so utterly depressed that I was unable to shake myself out of it. In the past, I’d had a good cry and somehow got on with life. But on this occasion, I was beside myself.”
Blackman, a clinical cardiac physiologist, then spent the next 10 months receiving treatment and is now ready to get her life back on track.