Something has been bothering me since the arrest in November of Tatsuya Ichihashi (who was subsequently charged with the rape-murder of English-language teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker). I can’t believe that nobody else seems to have raised the issue yet. During his 2 1/2 years on the run, he underwent several rounds of plastic surgery in several different hospitals, including one in Osaka. It seems highly unlikely to me that none of the doctors or hospital staff in any of those hospitals recognized him as a wanted fugitive.
Soon after Ichihashi was identified as a suspect, his mug was posted on police wanted boards and his photo was aired nationwide by NHK and other broadcasters. How could so many people have failed to recognize him?
If the doctors and others knew whom they were treating, it seems that their surgical assistance in altering his identity could have amounted to aiding and abetting a fugitive from justice. I understand that doctors are bound to respect a patient’s rights to medical privacy, but that duty doesn’t require or allow doctors to help a murder suspect evade arrest and escape justice.
The parents of Hawker are, of course, greatly relieved to have Ichihashi in custody. Ichihashi has admitted to choking the victim, and although he denies that he intended to kill her, I’m confident that he will be convicted of the crimes and receive appropriate punishment.
Like everyone else, I’m grateful to the police and to anyone else who assisted in apprehending Ichihashi. Sadly, though, some very troubling questions remain. Anyone who might have willingly obstructed justice by assisting Ichihashi should be very thoroughly investigated.
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