Furlong accused denies murder

A man accused of killing an Irish exchange student in Tokyo has shown no remorse and should be punished severely, Japanese prosecutors said today.

A man accused of killing an Irish exchange student in Tokyo has shown no remorse and should be punished severely, Japanese prosecutors said today.

Mon, Mar 4, 2013, 00:00

The American musician accused of killing Irish exchange student Nicola Furlong has denied murder on the first day of his trial in Tokyo.

But Richard Hinds (19), from Memphis, Tennessee admitted “lightly pressing” Ms Furlong’s neck in his upmarket hotel room, after what his defence team called “rough sex”.

“I do not believe I was the cause of her death because the pressure was too light,” Mr Hinds told the Tokyo District Court during opening statements. “I had no intent, motive or reason to hurt, harm or kill her”.

The prosecution said Mr Hinds, a musician who was touring Japan, used a bath towel to strangle his victim shortly after 3am on May 24th last year. The court heard that a towel found in the hotel room contained his DNA.

Ms Furlong's blood tested positive for the sleeping drugs Xanax and Lidocaine, the prosecutors told the court. They believe Ms Furlong, from Curracloe, Co Wexford, and her Irish friend were drugged after meeting Mr Hinds and another American man outside a rap concert.

"The defendant shows absolutely no remorse," said lead prosecutor Kenji Horikoshi, demanding “harsh” punishment. Mr Hinds faces up life imprisonment if convicted.

Mr Hinds' defence team, however, said there was "no proof" of murder and a "strong possibility that the victim died from ingesting alcohol or drugs".

Ms Furlong's parents, Angela and Andrew, sat behind the prosecution team looking directly across from the accused throughout today's session. Their daughter Andrea and several Irish friends sat in the public gallery.

Angela Furlong buried her head in her hands and wiped away tears as the defence read out their opening arguments, alleging that the Irish student had demanded sex in the defendant's room in the Keio Plaza Hotel and grown aggressive when he refused.

The defence said Mr Hinds put his hand over Ms Furlong's face and neck when her voice rose, but that he had not intended to kill her.

Takuya Niwano, the hotel's duty manager, told the court he found Ms Furlong's body on the floor of Mr Hinds' room at about 3.30am after a guest complained of noise.

“I checked but couldn’t find a pulse,” said Mr Niwano, adding that the room was in a state of some disarray. Bloodstains were later found on bed sheets and elsewhere. Mr Niwano said when he asked the defendant what the victim’s name was, "he said he didn’t know".

Photographs taken in a bar a few hours before Ms Furlong’s death showed the two Irish women dressed in costume and smiling.

Statements from employees at the Scramble Café & Bar said Ms Furlong fell unconscious about an hour after arriving with Mr Hinds and his friend, James Blackston.

The court watched CCTV footage recording the two Americans bundling the unconscious women into a taxi on the way to their hotel, then discussing having sex with them.

The second Irish woman was allegedly assaulted by Mr Blackston in the back of the taxi while Ms Furlong lay in the floor.

Still footage taken inside an elevator shows the women in wheelchairs, with Ms Furlong’s head lolling to one side. Mr Niwano said he had supplied the wheelchairs because he thought the woman had too much to drink.

The case continues tomorrow and is expected to last to weeks, with the verdict due on March 19th.