NPA now charging suspect Ichihashi with Hawker murder, not just “abandoning her corpse”. Why the delay?


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Hi Blog.  Have a look at these articles, then I’ll comment:


Ichihashi gets warrant for Hawker rape-murder
Japan Times Dec 3, 2009
CHIBA (Kyodo) Tatsuya Ichihashi was served a fresh arrest warrant Wednesday on suspicion of raping and killing Briton Lindsay Ann Hawker, after being charged earlier in the day with abandoning her body.

The 30-year-old was arrested on Nov. 10 in Osaka following more than 2 1/2 years on the run since Hawker was found strangled and stuffed in a tub on the balcony of his apartment in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, in 2007.

Although Ichihashi has remained silent about the murder, the police believe he killed the 22-year-old language teacher and the murder warrant was so served on the last day of his detention period authorized under the initial arrest on the technical offense of abandoning a corpse.

Rest at


Hawker was found bound, shorn
Japan Times Dec 5, 2009

CHIBA (Kyodo) Slain Briton Lindsay Ann Hawker’s hair had been cut and her hands and feet bound with ropes when her corpse was found buried in a sand-filled bathtub on the balcony of murder suspect Tatsuya Ichihashi’s apartment in Chiba Prefecture in March 2007, investigative sources revealed Friday.

Chiba Prefectural Police believe Ichihashi, 30, tied her up with polyester rope before raping her and cutting her hair, and prepared the sand and the tub to conceal her body and the smell of her decomposing corpse, the sources said, noting the rope is sold at many stores.

The police discovered an empty bag for the sand for gardening, and long tufts of hair of hair in a trash bin at Ichihashi’s apartment when they found the body of Hawker, 22, the sources said…

Rest at


Police charge Ichihashi with murdering British teacher Hawker
Mainichi Shinbun Dec 2, 2009

ICHIKAWA, Chiba — Police served a fresh arrest warrant Wednesday on Tatsuya Ichihashi — the 30-year-old man who has already been arrested on a charge of abandoning the body of 22-year-old Briton Lindsay Ann Hawker — for the victim’s murder, police said.

Ichihashi was hit with the murder charges as his legal detention period was set to expire.

He stands accused of strangling Lindsay at his home in Ichikawa sometime between March 25 and 26, 2007. He kept silent about the new charges during questioning.

DNA in body fluid detected from the victims’ body matched that of Ichihashi.

It was confirmed that Ichihashi and Hawker entered Ichihashi’s apartment on March 25, 2007, and that there were no signs that anyone else entered the apartment before the discovery of Hawker’s body the next afternoon, according to investigators.

On the afternoon of March 26, the English language school where Hawker worked reported her missing to Chiba Prefectural Police. A piece of paper with Ichihashi’s name and phone number were found at Hawker’s home in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture.

Around 9:40 p.m. that evening, Ichihashi escaped as police were questioning him in front of his apartment. Hawker’s body was found in a bathtub on the balcony of the apartment. She had died of asphyxiation.

市橋容疑者:リンゼイさん殺害容疑で再逮捕 千葉県警
毎日新聞 2009年12月2日






COMMENT:  Now here’s what I don’t get.  Ichihashi’s charge has been upgraded from corpse abandonment to outright murder.  But why wasn’t it before?  What new information has been brought out since his apprehension?  Police already knew about the body, the disposed-of hair, the fact that she accompanied Ishihashi to his apartment and was last seen there.  And now suddenly his DNA matches bodily fluid found on her corpse.  But didn’t the police know all of this before?  It’s not as though Ichihashi’s interrogation revealed him admitting any new information (after all, he’s not talking).

Why is it that he gets charged with mere corpse abandonment (something that frequently happens when a NJ gets killed) up until now, whereas if something like this is done to a Japanese victim (as posters with Ichihashi’s fellow murder suspects indicate), it gets a full-blown murder charge?  Why the delay until now?  I wish I had the information to answer these questions.

Final thing I find odd:  Good for father Mr Hawker being tenacious about this case.  There are plenty of other murders (Tucker Murder, Honiefaith Murder, Lacey Murder, and Blackman Murder) and assaults (Barakan Assault) of NJ that the NPA and the criminal courts gave up on all too easily.  Does the family of the NJ victim have to pursue things more doggedly than the police before the NPA will actually get on it (as they had to do for Lucie Blackman’s killer, and he still got acquitted for it)?  It only took the NPA close to three years to get Ichihashi, and that was after a tip from a face change clinic (not any actual police investigation).

Why this half-assedness for crimes against NJ?  Sorry, there’s lots of things here that just don’t make sense, and they point to different judicial standards for NJ victims of J crime.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

19 comments on “NPA now charging suspect Ichihashi with Hawker murder, not just “abandoning her corpse”. Why the delay?

  • I read somewhere that there’s a weird loophole for detaining/questioning suspects for a certain period of days PER charge, so they often bring new charges when the old ones “wear off” their detaining period. I don’t know why, or how widespread this is, but it may not just be cases like this…

  • The first article says they waited until the last day of the period they are legally allowed to hold him under the abandoning corpse charge. Looks to me like they just want to extend the period they have him in custody to sweat a bit more before they send the papers to the prosecutors. I often get the feeling that suspected murderers are first charged on the corpse charge and then later the murder charge is added. All countries have strange procedural rules when it comes to these things and my (granted uneducated) guess would be that they can lengthen the period they hold suspects for questioning. Dunno about differing approaches here. I get the feeling that lots of murder investigations go down like this.

    — Then why not those fellow wanted suspected murderers (not corpse abandoners being displayed on the same wanted posters as Ichihashi? They got no lesser charge before an upgrade.

  • I always thought Ichihashi was wanted for murder, since there was overwhelming evidence that he was the murderer of Ms. Hawker. “Abandoning a corpse” (死体遺棄罪) sounds a little ridiculous in comparison — didn’t even know that such a charge existed.

    Anyway, I’ll be watching this trial with great interest. Some of the other NJ murder cases linked in the article were absolutely revolting. Semi-rhetorical question: how can such things happen in a country that claims to be “civilized”? Even my own country has better justice, and we’re supposed to be a “developing nation”.

    — Look, I think it’s high time that people lost the idea that this society (or any society) is preternaturally “anything” (including “safe”, “civilized”, “conflict-avoiding”, “peace-loving” etc.), because it’s always a shock to people when they have their expectations unusually high and the realities offered by experience set in.

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    One of my initial concerns was that the police may have botched the investigation vis preserving the chain of evidence, and were going to have to rely on a confession. Arrest him on the lesser charge and have 23 days to make him cough. Once the 23 days are up, re-arrest him on a murger charge and get another 23 days.

    Of course, the lesser charge seems inconsistant with the ¥10000000 reward for information leading to his arrest – the largest such reward ever offered, I believe.

    Unfortunately, the media circus surrounding his arrest and interrogation aren’t going to help – his hunger strike gained a bit of sympathy from some commentators, and his lawyers have complained about his treatment by the police.

    I read that there is a chance that he’ll face the gallows – murder and rape (too bad they couldn’t make it stick on Obara), but with the new social order, the chances of that are reduced.

    — We’ll see. Yes, too bad about Obara, wasn’t it.

    Yes, and about that reward. You think it would ever have been offered if father Mr Hawker hadn’t kept his very public pressure up and shamed the police into redoubling their efforts?

    And (unrelated to the police) how did Ichihashi get this troupe of lawyers defending him (when I’ve seen plenty of cases where accused murderers just had to settle for the lackluster flunky provided by the court)? When have we ever heard in murder cases like these much sympathy for the accused (especially when the accusation is of a very nasty rape/murder/disposal of the body combination)? Couldn’t be because the victim is NJ, could it? Of course not, right?

  • Murderers in Japan, whatever the nationality of the victim, are almost always first arrested for disposing of the body. I think the explanation is the following. Under Japanese law, the police can hold someone for 23 day after arrest, before having to take them to court and show evidence to get them committed for trial. This is when they lock you in a room and try to get you to sign something in Japanese. If they arrest you for disposing of a corpse, they can hold you for three weeks. If, three weeks later, they arrest you for murdering the corpse first, they get to hold you for another three weeks. Note that Ichihashi was re-arrested about three weeks after the initial arrest, and has, apparently, not been cooperating with the police.

    While this is a definite human rights problem (the police appear to be exploiting a loophole here), it’s not a racism problem. If you’ve not noticed them doing it when the victim is Japanese, you haven’t been paying attention; they virtually always do this, and it puzzled me for ages.

    As for the investigation, there are plenty of murders of Japanese that go beyond the statute of limitations. The police really screwed up at the start of this investigation, but I don’t see any particular reason to think that it was because the victim was NJ.

    — I disagree. And I have been paying attention. See my comments to comments above. Also please address some of the arguments made in my Japan Times column March 24, 2009, “Punishing Foreigners, Exonerating Japanese”, as I linked to before in this blog entry.

  • I find nothing insidious in this at all. It was announced on the news within a day or so of his capture that they were intending to file the additional charges. It makes sense to me that they might wait to make the formal charges until as late a date as they can so they may be sure to have as much and as complete information and evidence as possible. As others have suggested, it also gives them more time to work on the case and the detainee. In the extra time they have they may find that they can ‘coax’ an outright confession. There may be other procedural rules that come into play as well when the new charges are added. In this case, as well, confirmed DNA evidence to make the more serious charge may not have been available before his capture. Also, the circumstances of the original investigation may not have allowed them to make a clear charge of murder earlier but at least the abandonment charge allowed him to be placed on the posters instead of simply in the investigation file as a person of interest. Is there some other reason that we should be reading anything more sinister into this? If there is, I’m not convinced of it.

  • Here’s a news report from yesterday of a Japanese person suspected of murdering a Japanese being arrested for disposing of the body. He has apparently confessed to the murder, and the police are now “considering” rearresting him for murder.

    And here’s one today about that Japanese university student who was found in bits on a mountain in Hiroshima, the “disposal and mutilation of a corpse case”, as the article describes it.

    Here’s one from a couple of days ago about an apparently Japanese guy who killed his wife, has been charged with disposing of the corpse, and now has been rearrested for her murder.

    And here’s another one from a few days ago of a Japanese man killing a Japanese woman, being arrested for disposing of the corpse, and then confessing to the murder. The police are “continuing their investigations with a view to making a case for a murder charge”.

    I’ve not even finished the first page of Google news search yet.

    There’s lots of evidence for racism in the Japanese justice system, but this point isn’t part of it.

    — Thanks for these. Good stuff. Can you now turn to some of my JT arguments in specific? Thanks.

  • <i.– Look, I think it’s high time that people lost the idea that this society (or any society) is preternaturally “anything” (including “safe”, “civilized”, “conflict-avoiding”, “peace-loving” etc.), because it’s always a shock to people when they have their expectations unusually high and the realities offered by experience set in.

    You’re right, of course… Personally, I stopped having any expectations a while back. The reason I mentioned the word “civilized”, was that a lot of Japanese claim it (along with the other ones you mentioned). It’s ironic how their view of themselves and reality are barely tangent sometimes.

    — That’s true of most societies. Everyone wants to see themselves as the good guy in the movie. Let’s get back on point.

  • The comments crossed in posting; sorry about that.

    As for the JT article points, I don’t really have anything to say. While anecdotal evidence is never conclusive, it’s pretty damn suggestive. At the very least, the police and prosecutors have a problem with giving the impression that they are biased against foreigners, and that’s a problem. Genuine institutional racism seems very likely, and that’s a worse problem. (Here is where international comparisons are helpful; you find institutional racism everywhere, so it’s quite likely that you’ll find it in Japan as well. You need good evidence that it doesn’t happen, not good evidence that it does.)

    But the way Ichihashi was charged is absolutely standard practice, independent of the nationalities of the murderer and victim, so it’s not further evidence. The whole arrest and investigation process, apart from the initial screw-up, don’t look different from cases involving Japanese victims. How long have those last Aum people been on the run now? Is it too much to hope that the police have learned from the Obara case?

  • Then why not those fellow wanted suspected murderers (not corpse abandoners being displayed on the same wanted posters as Ichihashi?

    Just a guess, and an uneducated one at that… but is it possible that the corpses in those cases were not buried/mutilated/disposed of in some way? That murder was the only possible charge, so they went straight for murder rather than introducing multiple charges in order to lengthen the detainment period (as seems to be at least some of the reasoning in this case).

    I have no idea what’s up with the team of lawyers either, but I don’t think the general public is sympathetic to Ichihashi at all! Certain individuals may be, and some of those individuals may be in the right positions to make a difference… but on the whole, I think most average Japanese would be glad to see him get the sentence he so obviously deserves.

    — I agree. I’m just surprised that somebody this time is complaining about Ichihashi’s treatment by police. Is this the “new world order” in counter-police-abuse activism (if so, good, and I hope to see more of it regardless of nationality), or is it just a case some of the more airy-fairy human rights activist-lawyers are latching onto to publicize their careers?

    Fine, Ichihashi is entitled to a fair trial and the best defense musterable, etc. I’ve just never really seen, given the general presumption of guilt before innocence in Japan (even the Wide Shows I’ve seen haven’t been as “traumatized” in commentary as I’ve seen in other murder cases), all that much made of a person accused of a suspected murderer’s inalienable human rights here before. Good trend, I guess, but to me odd timing.

  • phil adamek says:

    Debito: In reference to this request of yours:

    “– Look, I think it’s high time that people lost the idea that this society (or any society) is preternaturally “anything” (including “safe”, “civilized”, “conflict-avoiding”, “peace-loving” etc.),”

    I suggest we add “polite.” Non-Japanese, or even naturalized Japanese, like to repeat the assertion that “Japanese are polite” with all the religious determination that school kids in this country are trained to rehearse the idea that “Japan has four seasons.” See the comments to your recent article on 9 things you like about Japan for examples. You rebuffed the dogged attempt by one of your readers to get you to wholly embrace the assertion, and with good reason.

    Does Japan have specific forms of politeness which are repeated in a number of contexts and which are clearly visible in everyday life? Surely, it does. But that does not mean that these particular forms of politeness can be compared quantitatively with forms of politeness that are practiced in other countries or cultures, and it is naive to insinuate that they can. Repeating dogmatically that “Japanese are polite” very easily leads one into imagining that they are “more polite” than other peoples, whereas others simply practice forms of politeness very differently in many cases.

    The question of politeness in its cultural context is a large one, but one generalization about Japanese politeness we can make is that it involves being aware of the hierarchical positions of everyone involved. To that degree, it lacks the “spontaneity” that is found in American culture, wherein people more easily and frequently address those who are unknown to them without the latter receiving this as an imposition or aberration of the social order. There are whole books on this topic, but I believe that’s the sort of qualitative comparison that one needs to keep in mind when thinking about this issue, and that’s why I mention it here.

  • Great information David. Over the years here in Japan I have been puzzled as to why corpse abandonment is usually the initial police charge. A search for the term in Japanese indicates that this is usual procedure until a suspect is captured or until the authorities develop their case further with a suspect already in custody. Yahoo Japan even has a special news section for corpse abandonment news. Recent stories shows charges are elevated to murder after initial corpse abandonment charges.

  • >>”And (unrelated to the police) how did Ichihashi get this troupe of lawyers defending him (when I’ve seen plenty of cases where accused murderers just had to settle for the lackluster flunky provided by the court)? When have we ever heard in murder cases like these much sympathy for the accused (especially when the accusation is of a very nasty rape/murder/disposal of the body combination)? Couldn’t be because the victim is NJ, could it? Of course not, right?”

    It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the victim. The guy was on the run for over two years after having fled with bugger all. How did he make it? His parents are both well-off doctors. Join the dots there. The source of funds for his lawyers are most likely his parents, too.

  • My guess is that family or family connections are involved in helping him in the lawyer department. And I believe the same connections were involved in keeping him on the run for so long. I mean, how could a loser like this evade capture for so long without help? No, I don’t believe to authorities are on his side. This case was a major source of embarrassment for them.
    While I do believe there is injustice towards NJ, after researching Japanese attitude towards the police the other day I think the issue is much bigger: injustice and corruption are a way of life in this country. The fact that the legal system is 100 years out of date doesn’t help matters either.
    What I would like to see is more solidarity on the issue, a legal body set up to fight corruption and human rights infringements in court (class action) and an alternative media outlet that doesn’t avoid these issues. How can we do this?

    — Well, one can’t do class action suits. They don’t exist in Japan. And my abortive attempt to get something like one going regarding racial discrimination with multiple plaintiffs (see my “kunibengodan” site) went nowhere. Ah well, win some, lose some.

    You can of course, join FRANCA, but that’s lobbying, not legal action.

  • Corpse abandonment seems to be an old law that originates from the need to dispose of bodies properly rather than just dumping them, and may help to explain why scattering of ashes is still relatively rare (though this actually is allowed by the law). It seems common enough in cases like this to use an initial charge of abandoning a body, which is easily proven irrespective of the cause of death, and only upgrade to murder if/when the police decide they have a strong enough case. Plus, there is the 2×23 day thing as others have mentioned. I don’t see much racism in this here, just (normal) abuse of process. In the case of wanted posters, it probably depends on the rather arbitrary decision of whatever the policeman in charge happens to have decided, and how much direct evidence there is fingering the suspect.

  • Here is one site that explains the issue specifically regarding the Ichihashi case:

    I am also under the impression that this is very much standard procedure. Almost all murder cases that I hear about on the news seem to start with this charge. Perhaps the procedure is not very good but I think it is hard to argue that this charge has anything to do with the victim being an NJ.

    — Yes, quite. I’m most convinced by the articles sent here by David. I think you’re right. I acquiesce on that point.

  • In the instance of the Barakan assault. Did Barakan ever file an official complaint? It sounds like the police wanted to sweep it under the rug (i.e. we will have to build a circumstantial case against this person, maybe if we ignore it it will go away) and by not going to the koban and signing the paperwork to make an official complaint they just dropped it since noone was “injured” (yes, I know, I mean like smacked over the head and sent to the hospital not maced).

    In other words – if something happens to you and the cops are trying to ignore or trivialize it insist on filing a formal complaint (and follow up at the local station) – that ties their hands as far as starting an investigation goes (doesn’t guarantee anything will be done but they have to explain why they didn’t do anything). Another lesson learned from my father-in-law (who is a retired cop and had to do that himself – so it’s not just a NJ thing it’s more of a lazy not doing their job cop thing).

  • The practice of leading with the charge of “abandoning a corpse” seems like a police “bait-and-switch” tactic. A suspect who potentially faces a murder rap might be persuaded to confess to the lesser charge, which carries a maximum 3-year sentence instead of life imprisonment or death – but once you’ve confessed to it, you’ve indirectly confessed to the murder. After all, you’re only in a position to “abandon” a corpse if you’re (a) a family member, doctor, or someone else with some kind of responsibility for disposing of it properly; or (b) the murderer. Absent (a), anyone who admits to the charge has essentially given the police license to prosecute them for (b).


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