Nicola Furlong suspect to face criminal trial
A JAPANESE court has recommended a criminal trial for the main suspect in the murder of Irish exchange student Nicola Furlong there.
The decision means that the 19-year-old American man will be tried as an adult and could face life imprisonment.
The Furlong family, who were in the central Tokyo court yesterday morning to hear the decision, said they were “very pleased” at the outcome.
Ms Furlong (21) was strangled in a Tokyo hotel last May. The American, who cannot be named under Japanese law because of his young age, has admitted killing her but has denied intent to kill.
Three judges ruled after hearing impact statements from the Furlong family and police reports detailing the circumstances surrounding the death. Their decision is thought to have hinged around police toxicology reports on Ms Furlong.
The trial will now be heard in a criminal court instead of in a family court.
The suspect, who had been facing a maximum of five years in prison, is now likely to face a much tougher penalty.
Japan has the death penalty but uses it almost exclusively for cases of multiple murder.
Journalists were banned from the two hearings on the case last Thursday and yesterday but reporting restrictions are now likely to be lifted.
A source in the Tokyo Public Prosecutors Office said he could not predict when the trial would begin, but that it was likely to be months away.
The Furlongs, who fly home to Dublin today, have pledged to return to Tokyo for the hearings.
“We are certainly coming back if it comes to trial,” Mr Furlong said. “It was very daunting coming out but we’re glad that we did,” said Ms Furlong’s mother, Angela.
Ms Furlong was due to return to Ireland from Japan this weekend. The DCU student had been studying business and the Japanese language at a rural university on a one-year programme before her death, which happened after she attended a Tokyo rap concert.
“Whatever way it worked out, we’re going back at the same time,” Mr Furlong said. “It feels like we’re bringing her home.”
The family thanked people across Ireland who had raised the money to help them to travel to Japan. “Only for the funds, we wouldn’t be here,” Mr Furlong added.