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Japanese court sentences man to life in prison for death of British teacher

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CHIBA, Japan » A Japanese court sentenced a man to life in prison Thursday for the rape and killing of a young British teacher, bringing to a close one of the country’s highest-profile criminal cases in recent years.

The Chiba District Court ordered Tatsuya Ichihashi to spend life behind bars for the 2007 death of 22-year-old Lindsay Hawker, whose body was found in a dirt-filled bathtub on Ichihashi’s apartment balcony outside Tokyo.

Ichihashi evaded a nationwide police search for two and half years. After his arrest in 2009, Ichihashi wrote a book about his time on the run and the extensive cosmetic surgery he underwent to change his appearance.

Ichihashi said when his trial began on July 4 that he had enticed Hawker, who was working as an English teacher, into his apartment, raped and then strangled her because he feared her screams would prompt neighbors to call the police. Although he confessed to causing her death, he said he did not plan to murder Hawker and that he did not remember when he actually strangled her.

Hawker’s parents flew to Japan from England to attend the trial. Hawker’s father had said they hoped Ichihashi would be given the strongest punishment possible. That could have meant death by hanging.

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