Preventing escape was motive: prosecutors

Life term urged for Ichihashi


Staff Writer

Prosecutors demanded Tuesday life in prison for Tatsuya Ichihashi over the March 2007 rape and murder of English teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker.

Ichihashi, 32, who is also accused of abandoning Hawker’s corpse and who has admitted raping her and causing her death, had a strong motive to strangle the 22-year-old Briton: he didn’t want to be arrested for raping her, the prosecutors said in their closing statement in the lay judge trial at the Chiba District Court.

“I didn’t mean to kill her, and I never thought it was OK for her to die. What I did cannot be forgiven, but I wanted the court to know these two things,” Ichihashi said when he was allowed to speak as the trial closed.

“I’m the one who made her go through a horrifying, terrifying and painful experience and took her life, and I’m the one who ruined Lindsay and her family’s life and happiness. And I am not to be forgiven,” he said.

Ichihashi’s lawyers told the court that they didn’t believe the prosecution presented enough evidence to prove his motives.

The internationally high profile murder-rape case started when police found Hawker’s nude corpse in a sand-filled bathtub on the balcony of Ichihashi’s apartment in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture when they came to question him about her disappearance.

The prosecutors said he put the body in the tub to hide her, also demonstrating motive, before taking flight.

“His crimes were vicious and ignored the dignity of a precious life . . . and all his motives to take Lindsay’s life are selfish and self-centered,” they said.

The prosecutors also pointed out that Ichihashi spent about 32 months on the run until he was finally captured, a further indication he did not regret his crimes.

But while recognizing that Hawker’s family wants Ichihashi to receive the maximum sentence possible, the prosecutors said they didn’t demand the death penalty because there was only one victim.

The six lay judges, all men, and three professional judges, including one woman, will deliberate until next week behind closed doors.

The verdict will be announced July 21.

Should they find him guilty, the judges will hand down a sentence that day. Under the lay judge system, a verdict is decided by majority vote but must have at least one professional judge endorsing the ruling.

Ichihashi is accused of rape resulting in death, murder and abandoning the victim’s body. While admitting he raped and abandoned the corpse, he has denied intent to commit murder.

He has testified that Hawker died hours after the rape when he got on top of her to stop her from screaming and escaping. His lawyers want Ichihashi instead charged with injury resulting in death, not rape resulting in death.

Prosecutors said in their closing argument that even if the court decides the facts do not constitute rape resulting in death, raping the victim and murdering her are already serious offenses that merit harsh punishment.