Lindsay Hawker killer Tatsuya Ichihashi loses appeal

Tatsuya Ichihashi Ichihashi had argued he suffocated Lindsay Hawker by accident

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A Japanese man who raped and killed a British teacher before dumping her body in a bath filled with sand has lost an appeal against his life sentence.

Tatsuya Ichihashi was jailed in July last year for the murder in 2007 of Lindsay Hawker, 22, from Warwickshire.

At the appeal, his lawyers argued the sentence was too harsh and repeated the claim made at his trial that he had accidentally suffocated Miss Hawker.

But judges at Tokyo High Court rejected the argument and upheld the sentence.

Miss Hawker's family, who did not attend the hearing, said in a statement: "We are relieved that the original decision was upheld and that Ichihashi's appeal was refused."

At the time of his trial Ichihashi admitted raping and killing Miss Hawker but said she died by accident when he tried to muffle her screams.

He was on the run for two years and eight months after the death of Miss Hawker, who was from Brandon, near Coventry, and had been teaching him English.

Her body was found in the sand-filled bath in his apartment in March 2007.

Lindsay Hawker  Lindsay Hawker was working as an English teacher in Tokyo

He evaded police by altering his appearance with cosmetic surgery and also cut himself with scissors in an attempt to change his looks. But he was finally arrested in Osaka in November 2009.

Prosecutors at his trial argued the murder was premeditated and he had strangled Miss Hawker after raping her. They repeated this argument at his appeal and said the life term was justified.

After the judges rejected Ichihashi's appeal, the presiding judge read a statement from Miss Hawker's family in which they said they believed the killer had shown no remorse for his actions.

Miss Hawker's father Bill has previously called for Ichihashi to be given the "heaviest punishment" possible under Japanese law, theoretically the death penalty, but said his family had achieved justice after he was convicted.

Under Japanese law Ichihashi will have to serve a minimum of 10 years before he can be considered for parole.

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