Court told of alleged sex assault in Tokyo
An Irish woman has given evidence to a Tokyo court about her alleged sexual assault and the rape and killing of exchange student Nicola Furlong earlier this year.
The woman, who was not named, was with Ms Furlong on the night she was strangled in an upmarket Tokyo hotel on May 24th.
A 19-year-old American musician has admitted strangling Ms Furlong but denied intent to kill.
His friend, James Blackston (23), also a US citizen and described as a professional dancer, is on trial for “quasi-forcible indecency” after allegedly assaulting the witness in a taxi on the way to the Keio Plaza Hotel, where the two men had rented rooms.
Both women were studying at a Japanese university.
Speaking via a video link and often in tears, the witness said the event had “changed everything” for her.
“I feel anxiety and I find it hard to breathe,” she told judge Masayuki Yamada, as Blackston looked on impassively.
“I wish we had not trusted these two men because they have just wrecked everything.”
The witness said that on the night of the killing she and Ms Furlong were approached by the two men at a train station, after attending a concert by rap artist Nicki Minaj.
“They were nice and friendly,” she recalled, adding that all four decided to take a train into the entertainment district of Shibuya, where they danced and drank in a club.
She and Ms Furlong declined an invitation to stay at the men’s hotel, she said, explaining that they simply intended to “have a good night together” and return to their university dorm on the first train at 6am.
“They said we could have one room and they would have the other,” she recalled.
“We said, ‘No way, we’re fine thank you.’ We just thought they were being friendly.”
Police and prosecutors believe the women were drugged at the bar before being bundled into a taxi. Video footage at the Keio Plaza shows the two suspects wheeling the two apparently unconscious women through the hotel lobby to their rooms.
The witness told the Tokyo district court she had blacked out after the club.
“We went to the toilet and when we came back there were four drinks there on the bar counter. I have no memory of what happened after that.”
She said when she woke up she saw Ms Furlong being put into an ambulance.
Much of the defence questioning was aimed at trying to establish that the women were drunk before the assault, a charge denied by the woman.
Under questioning, the woman declined to look at surveillance photos taken at the club, saying it was “too hard”.
“Me and my friend lived together and we always did things together,” she said tearfully. “Now she’s gone and she’ll never come back.”
Mr Blackston is also charged with a separate assault on another woman about a month earlier. If convicted he faces up to 10 years in prison.
The trial for Nicola Furlong’s murder begins next March.