Furlong was killed, Toyko trial hears
Andrea Furlong (left), younger sister of Nicola Furlong, leaves the Tokyo court the first day of proceedings in Tokyo yesterday.
Prosecutors in the trial of an American man accused of murdering Irish student Nicola Furlong have dismantled a key defence argument – that drugs and alcohol may have been to blame for her death.
A forensic expert told the Tokyo District Court today 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.
But a second doctor who examined Ms Furlong’s body when she was brought to the emergency room of the Tokyo University Hospital on May 24 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 today focused on needle marks found in Ms Furlong’s thighs, which defence lawyers tried to imply were the result of drug taking.
But 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, is complicated when the heart has stopped.
“The functions of her heart and lungs had stopped,” Dr Aida told the trial this morning, explaining that 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,” he said.
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 during her struggle to survive.
At times during the autopsy testimony, Ms Furlong’s mother Angela, who is in Tokyo with Nicola’s father Andrew and daughter Andrea, looked visibly distressed and wiped away tears.
“Even listening to testimony about Nicola’s injuries is very, very hard to take,” she said afterwards. But I have to know everything and see what I can. That’s why I came here.
Throughout the trial, the Furlong family has sat behind the prosecution about 15 feet directly across from the defendant.
During testy questioning from defence lawyers, 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.