England

Lindsay Hawker's killer Tatsuya Ichihashi jailed for life

A Japanese man has been sentenced to life in jail for the rape and murder of a British teacher found dead in a sand-filled bathtub in 2007.

Tatsuya Ichihashi, 32, admitted killing Lindsay Hawker, 22, from Brandon, near Coventry, at his home close to Tokyo, but had denied her murder.

He also admitted raping the English teacher, but said he tried to revive her after accidentally suffocating her.

Miss Hawker's parents said they felt they had got justice.

Her father, Bill, told journalists: "We've waited four-and-a-half years to get justice for Lindsay. We have achieved that today."

"Lindsay loved Japan, and you have not let her down," he added, referring to Japanese authorities.

Self-inflicted 'surgery'

Mr Hawker, his wife Julia, and the victim's sisters, Lisa and Louise, flew into Tokyo on Wednesday, to see the judge at Chiba District Court pass sentence on Ichihashi.

Under Japanese law he could have been given the death penalty and previously Mr Hawker asked the sentencing judge to apply the maximum punishment available.

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Media captionLindsay's father Bill Hawker gave an emotional reaction to the sentence

Judge Masaya Hotta said Ichihashi should not receive the death penalty because he had no previous criminal record and as he was aged 32, there was still a slight chance he could be rehabilitated.

Miss Hawker was last seen alive after giving her killer an English lesson in a coffee shop, on 25 March 2007.

Ichihashi, who went on the run, published a book in which he confessed to the killing and described how he had cosmetic surgery to change his appearance - including cutting his own lip and removing moles from his face.

His attempts to change his appearance eventually led to his arrest after staff at a clinic where he had surgery on his nose became suspicious and reported him to police.

Miss Hawker had travelled to Japan in October 2006, to teach English with the Nova language school.

'Battered-and-bound'

The Leeds University graduate was found dead at Ichihashi's apartment in Ichikawa City, east of Tokyo, less than six months later.

Ichihashi disappeared after Japanese police discovered the teacher's battered-and-bound body, buried naked in the bathtub on the balcony of his flat.

He was arrested at a ferry terminal in the city of Osaka, in western Japan in November 2009.

Image caption Ichihashi altered his appearance using cosmetic surgery while on the run

On 4 July, he told his trial he enticed Miss Hawker into his apartment, raped her and then strangled her because he feared neighbours would hear her screams and call the police.

He claimed he could not remember strangling her.

Sean Moore, who has lived in Brandon for 18 years, told the BBC he knows the Hawker family "by sight".

"It was just a terrible shock when it happened and I think we've all been right behind the family to see that justice is... done for them," he said.

George Fisher, former head of Miss Hawker's old school, King Henry VIII in Coventry, said he was very pleased for the family that "at last they've got some sort of justice."

"Whether it will help them to get closure on Lindsay's death, well I can only hope so," Mr Fisher said.

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