"Japan is a modern society. Surely somebody cannot just disappear in this country."
-Bill Hawker, Lindsay's father
It was the 24th of March 2007. A Saturday. The family of twenty two year old Lindsay Ann Hawker were concerned. It wasn't like her not to get in touch. She was constantly in regular contact with them but they hadn't heard from her at all that day. Lindsay lived with two teachers in Tokyo, Japan. She moved there in October 2006 so that she could spend a year teaching English with the Nova language school chain. Lindsay was from Brandon, near Coventry, England, United Kingdom and moved to Japan after she completed her degree in England. She wanted to get some experience before starting her Master's course.
Her boyfriend Ryan Garside was due to fly out to meet her that Summer so they could travel around Japan before returning to the United Kingdom.
Lindsay was so excited about moving to Japan. She chose Japan as she knew how safe it was there. She studied the culture and wanted to be respectful to the people she met when she got there. Her father, Bill Hawker, purchased little bags of lavender for her to bring to Japan so that she could gift them to people she met along the way. Her parents visited Lindsay in Japan to celebrate her Birthday and they were struck by how well she fitted in there. She spoke Japanese and had a friendly and warm relationship with the locals.
Despite living so far away, Lindsay remained in daily contact with her boyfriend, family and friends who were back home in England. So when they couldn't get in contact with her on the 24th of March they were worried. Due to the time difference, initially they thought she may just be out somewhere with friends but when they still hadn't heard from her the next day, they were extremely concerned. Lindsay was due to teach classes on the Sunday and Monday but she didn't show up to teach on the Sunday or the Monday and she was reported missing to the police. Lindsay worked six days a week and had never missed one lesson so there was reason to be concerned.
Police retraced her steps. Her last entry on Facebook was a message to her boyfriend that read:
"Love u lots dont worry abt the guy who chased me home, its jus crazy Japan. miss u xxx."
Police discovered that a few days before Lindsay went missing, she told her boyfriend that a man who was on the same train as her, sitting across from her, got off at her stop. He told her she was his English teacher. When she corrected him and told him she wasn't, he chased her home and asked her if she would give him an English lesson. He drew a picture of her and gave it to her and she agreed to give him an English lesson.
Police obtained CCTV footage. They discovered that Lindsay met a man at a coffee shop early on the Saturday morning, the 24th of March. They discovered that he was the man from the train and she had arranged to meet him at the coffee shop to give him a private English lesson. That was the last known sighting of her.
It wasn't unusual for Lindsay to give private English lessons. Lindsay gave private lessons before. The school allowed it but there were rules to follow. They must meet only in public places and leave a note with the name and address of the student they were meeting.
Lindsay did all that. She arranged to meet the man at 9am in a coffee shop she was familiar with on the Saturday morning. Lindsay left the name and address of the man she had arranged to meet on a note in her apartment and due to that it was easy for police to trace him. The man was Tatsuya Ichihashi and he was twenty nine years old.
Nobody knew where Lindsay went after the English lesson so police wanted to find Tatsuya to ask him if he knew anything. They knew, from the CCTV footage, that Lindsay got a taxi with Tatsuya to his apartment complex after the English lesson. Police knew it was his apartment complex as they had the note Lindsay left with his address on it. The CCTV footage showed the taxi pulling up and Lindsay and Tatsuya getting out. The taxi waited a few minutes before driving off. When police spoke to the driver, he informed them that Lindsay asked him to wait for her but he left after seven minutes when she did not return.
Police went to Tatsuya's apartment but they didn't knock on the door as they believed they had no probable cause to do so. At that point, they did not know where Lindsay was or if she had come to any harm. They observed that the lights were off in Tatsuya's apartment but they could see movement and knew somebody was home. They waited outside and eventually Tatsuya came out with a backpack on his back. They told him they needed to speak to him and he fled. He managed to escape.
When police entered his apartment, they made a devastating discovery. There was a bathtub on the balcony and inside there was a mixture of sand and compost soil which partially concealed Lindsay's body. Her naked body was bound and gagged with plastic ties and scarves. There were bruises and injuries all over her body. Lindsay's head had been shaved and her hair was found in a bag is Tatsuya's apartment. Police didn't know how she died at that point but knew from the extent of her injuries that she had suffered a violent death.
An Autopsy confirmed that Lindsay was murdered and that she was strangled or suffocated to death. Her neck was broken. There were extensive bruises on Lindsay's body, almost the entire front of her body and her back were covered in marks and bruises. The inside of her legs were covered in bruises. The marks indicated her attack was a sustained and vicious one and may have occurred over a 36 hour period.
Lindsay's face had large marks and bruises all over it. There were egg shaped bruises found on the left side of her face and it was determined that they were likely caused by a fist. It was believed that other marks on her body likely resulted from falling into or being pushed on to furniture. The injuries showed that Lindsay was punched repeatedly, kicked and a blunt instrument may have been used to beat her. There were defensive wounds on her arms.
Police believed that Tatsuya attacked Lindsay, raped her and then killed her before putting her body in the bathtub with the sand and compost soil to try to dispose of her body.
Her parents were notified of her violent death. Lindsay's father Bill told The Times of London:
"It was a horrific murder. There was literally not a square inch of her body that wasn't badly bruised."
While police searched for Tatsuya, they began building a case against him. Between the time that Lindsay first went missing to when her body was found, they discovered that Tatsuya went to a local hardware store six times to purchase different materials to use to try to dispose of Lindsay's body. They discovered that Tatsuya had a Japanese girlfriend and they had been together for one year. She told police that she had no idea where Tatsuya was. The apartment where Tatsuya lived was owned by his parents, a Doctor and a Dentist, and they also did not know where he was. They told police they had not heard from him since he went on the run.
One year after Lindsay was murdered, Tatsuya had still not been found. Lindsay's parents flew to Tokyo to appeal to the people in Japan to help find her killer. Her father Bill Hawker said:
"I have a dreadful feeling of helplessness, a horrible feeling of not being able to do anything. Last time I was here, I banged on the apartment door where she was murdered and promised Lindsay I'd find her killer. I haven't found him yet but we won't give up."
Despite pleas from Lindsay's family, a reward of 10m yen for information leading to his arrest and 8,000 reported sightings, it took two and a half years before Tatsuya was found. He was arrested in November 2009 in Osaka while waiting to board a ferry to the Southern Island of Okinawa. A passenger recognized him and told port officials who in turn told the police. He was wearing a hat, sunglasses and a paper surgical mask when he was arrested.
Police discovered that soon after he went on the run, Tatsuya began to alter his appearance to avoid detection. He bound up his nose with a needle and thread to make his nose narrower. He stayed in Tokyo for a short period before traveling to Aomori prefecture. He tried to cut off part of his lower lip to make it thinner using a scissors. He had to wait a few days after the first attempt due to the excruciating pain before doing it a second time to achieve his desired look. When he later saw a wanted poster with his face on it, he cut off the moles on his left cheek using a box cutter.
Along with altering his appearance, Tatsuya used false names and didn't stay in one place for too long. He also avoided certain places completely and shops that had CCTV cameras. He managed to save 1 million yen ($12,100) while on the run, from various construction jobs and spent most of it on two plastic surgery operations. He had a nose job to make his nose even more narrow and longer and the second surgery involved further work on his nose. He wanted to raise the bridge on his nose. That led to his downfall. The employees who worked at the second plastic surgery he attended had to take a number of photographs of his face and noticed that he had traces of moles which had been removed. They thought that was unusual and reported it to police. Police believed it was Tatsuya and the media notified the public to be on the lookout for him and to keep in mind that he had changed his appearance and that his nose in particular looked different. That brought a renewed interest to the case.
Tatsuya saw the news report himself and bought a disguise; a beard, sideburns and a mustache. But the public were on high alert again and it was a member of the public who spotted him waiting for the ferry.
Lindsay's parents, Bill and Julia Hawker, and her sisters flew to Japan for the Trial. Tatsuya pleaded not guilty. But before his Trial began, the Court heard that he wanted to make an admission. He admitted he was responsible for Lindsay's death and admitted that he raped her but claimed her death was an accident and he did not intend to kill her. He said:
"In order to prevent her raising her voice, I covered her mouth and put my arms around her neck."
It was the Prosecution's case that Lindsay suffered a prolonged and violent death and died as a result of sustained pressure to her throat. The Court heard that the Prosecution did not believe her death was the result of an accident and that there was nothing to indicate that he had attempted to resuscitate her and he didn't call an ambulance or ask anyone for help. Instead, he hid her body in a bathtub.
It was the Prosecution's case that Lindsay gave Tatsuya an English lesson in the coffee shop and went back to his apartment as he claimed he had forgotten to bring his wallet and said he had money at his apartment. Lindsay planned to stay just for a minute or two, until she received her payment, and that was evident by her actions. She asked the taxi driver to wait outside for her. But the Court heard that almost as soon as Lindsay set foot into the apartment, Tatsuya administered strong blows to her face. Most of the blows were inflicted around her right eye.
It was their case that Lindsay tried to fight back so Tatsuya bound her so that he could rape her.
The Court heard about the extent of the injuries that were found on Lindsay's body and the Autopsy results. They claimed that he killed her to hide the fact that he raped her.
It was the Defense case that Lindsay died as the result of an accident. The Court heard from Tatsuya himself. He admitted raping Lindsay at his home and abandoning her body. He told the Court that Lindsay died because he tried to stop her from screaming and as a result he accidentally suffocated her:
"I didn't intend to kill her, but I am responsible for her death. I was the one who scared her and left her dead. I am very sorry for what I did. Yes, I raped her. Yes, I agree that Lindsay died because of my actions. But I did not mean to kill her. Only Lindsay and I know what really happened that day, but she can no longer speak for herself because of me. It is my responsibility to tell the truth throughout this Trial."
He claimed that he didn't even realize he was putting too much pressure on her neck and he tried to revive her.
Tatsuya was found guilty. The Court believed he intended to murder Lindsay when he put pressure on her neck. The Presiding Judge, Masaya Hotta, told the Court:
"He raped her to satisfy his sexual desire, then tried to cover up the rape by killing her. He then attempted to conceal the murder by abandoning her body. The crime was inexcusable and savage. Tatsuya has repeated irrational, unnatural statements that are contradicted by the evidence. We do not believe that he has reflected on his crime from the bottom of his heart."
Before the Court sentenced Tatsuya, Bill Hawker asked them to show Tatsuya "no mercy" and give him the death penalty.
The Court declined to do so. Tatsuya was sentenced to life in prison. The Court outlined the reasons that they opted not to give the death penalty:
"Tatsuya has no criminal record and is not a criminal by nature. He is still young. Perhaps he has a chance to make a new start or to be corrected."
Under Japanese law Tatsuya will have to serve a minimum of 10 years before being eligible for parole.
After the sentencing hearing, Bill spoke to the media:
"We have waited four and half years to get justice for Lindsay, and we have achieved that today. We are very pleased. I would also like to thank the Japanese people. We would not have got this far without everyone's help. Lindsay loved Japan and you have not let her down. Thank you."
Before Tatsuya went on Trial, he published a book called Until The Arrest. The book does not include any details of the crime itself but focuses on his time while he was on the run. The book gives details of how he avoided getting caught for the two and half years that he was on the run for and how he traveled between Aomori in Japan's north to Okinawa, a subtropical island in the far south and his day to day activities. The book also details the changes he made to his face from his own cutting and slicing actions to his two plastic surgeries.
Tatsuya appealed his sentence but the High Court upheld it.
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