• Kyodo

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An employee of the trust set up in memory of slain Tokyo bar hostess Lucie Blackman denied Tuesday that he stole money from the organization.

Matt Searle, 32, was arrested April 30 following allegations made by an former member of the Lucie Blackman Trust. Police are investigating suspicions Searle was involved in stealing $5,000.

“I completely deny the allegations. There’s no money missing from the trust and I hope to have this cleared up as soon as possible,” Searle said.

The trust also issued a statement saying, “The trustees have the highest regard for Mr. Searle’s integrity and are deeply shocked and disappointed that his honesty should be called into question.” Searle continues to work at the trust.

It is believed that the allegations stem from a series of discrepancies in the trust’s financial records caused by “clerical omissions” and credit card handling charges, which were not accounted for in the books.

A police spokeswoman said that Searle, who handles the trust’s day-to-day affairs, was allowed to go home after being interviewed by detectives. Police will investigate the matter further before deciding whether to formally charge Searle with theft and have him tried in court.

The trust, which promotes personal safety for young people, has an office on the Isle of Wight, off England’s south coast. It is also the hometown of the victim’s father, Tim Blackman.

The organization has been funded by public donations as well as contributions from the Blackman family. Another source of revenue is the sale of personal safety items, such as rape alarms.

Lucie Blackman, who was a flight attendant for British Airways, went missing from her Tokyo home in the summer of 2000.

Her dismembered body was later found in a cave in Miura, Kanagawa Prefecture, in February 2001.

Last month, Joji Obara, a Tokyo businessman, was cleared of all charges involving Blackman’s death and the dismembering and abandoning of her body, but was sentenced to life in prison for the death of Carita Ridgway.

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