Furlong case told death was not natural
Andrea Furlong holds a photograph of her sister Nicola as she leaves the Tokyo District Court with her father Andrew and mother Angela following the second day of proceedings.
Prosecutors in the trial of a US man accused of murdering Irish student Nicola Furlong have sought to dismantle the key defence argument that drugs and alcohol may have been to blame for her death.
A forensic expert told Tokyo District Court yesterday that the cause of death could not have been natural. “It’s very clear to me that the victim was killed,” said Kenichi Yoshida, a veteran of 2,200 autopsies.
Richard Hinds (19), who denies murdering the Curracloe, Co Wexford, woman last May, admitted in his opening statement on Monday that he had “lightly pressed” on her neck but not enough to kill her.
His lawyers have argued that Ms Furlong (21) had been drinking heavily on the night of her death, and cited the presence of two drugs in her bloodstream – Lidocaine, a local anaesthetic, and an anxiety suppressant widely known as Xanax.
However, a second doctor who examined Ms Furlong’s body when she was brought to the emergency room of Tokyo University Hospital on May 24th last year said one of the drugs could have entered her bloodstream during attempts to revive her. Dr Kenta Aida told the court that Lidocaine is applied to endotracheal tubes during attempts to help unresponsive patients breathe.
The court also heard Ms Furlong was legally prescribed Xanax to treat mild anxiety.
Ms Furlong was found unconscious at the Keio Plaza Hotel about 30 minutes before being brought to the hospital. Mr Hinds, a musician from Memphis, Tennessee, admits being in his hotel room with her at the time of her death.
The morning session yesterday focused on needle marks on Ms Furlong’s thighs, which defence lawyers tried to imply were the result of drug-taking. However, Dr Aida explained that the marks came from repeated attempts in the emergency room to take blood from Ms Furlong’s body. “We were trying to check her oxygen and CO2 levels,” he said, adding that the procedure, while standard, was complicated when the heart was not beating.
“The functions of her heart and lungs had stopped,” Dr Aida added, saying he attempted to resuscitate Ms Furlong by massaging her chest and administering Adrenalin. “The patient was very young so she left an impression on me.”
Dr Yoshida later said marks on Ms Furlong’s neck and blood spots on her face indicated that she had “been in distress for several minutes”. The autopsy also revealed that she may have scratched herself before falling unconscious.
Dr Yoshida dismissed alternative theories about Ms Furlong’s death. “There are very clear findings of strong pressure being put on the victim’s neck. That makes her consumption of alcohol irrelevant.”
The trial continues.