'We know how strong we need to be for Nic' - Furlong family in Tokyo for trial
Nicola Furlong's father Andrew (centre), mother Angela and sister Andrea launched the Nicola Furlong Memorial Walk in Wexford last year. photograph: patrick browne
BackgroundNicola Furlong’s family to face killer and watch footage of her last few hours
The family of Irish exchange student Nicola Furlong has arrived in Tokyo to face her alleged killer across a courtroom. The trial of Richard Hinds (19) begins on Monday and is expected to last about two weeks.
Mr Hinds, an American musician, is charged with murdering Ms Furlong (21) in a Tokyo hotel last May. He admits strangling the Wexford woman, from Curracloe, but denies intent.
“I’ve been dreading coming,” Ms Furlong’s mother Angela told The Irish Times yesterday. “I believe the first few days will be the hardest because we’re actually going to hear minute-by-minute what happened.”
She arrived in Tokyo on Thursday with Ms Furlong’s father Andrew and their daughter Andrea, who told reporters before they left Dublin Airport that her sister’s killer “deserved” to be hanged.
“She’s very angry about what happened,” said Mrs Furlong.
Japan retains the death penalty but Mr Hinds is unlikely to be sentenced to death if convicted. Japanese prosecutors in murder cases typically demand a sentence of between 10 and 30 years.
The Furlongs have opted to watch in court harrowing footage of Ms Furlong’s last few hours. Surveillance cameras in a bar on the night of the killing show the exchange student falling over, apparently from the effects of being drugged.
More footage taken from a taxi on the way to the Keio Plaza Hotel reportedly captures a sexual assault on Ms Furlong’s Irish friend by a second American male, James Blackston. Prosecutors say the two men lured the women to the hotel after a rap concert.
Both women were studying at Dublin City University and had come to Japan as exchange students, based in a university 100km north of Tokyo.
“I’ve told them [the prosecutors] we don’t want to miss anything,” said Mrs Furlong. “I don’t want to go home with any regrets. I don’t want to be sitting home in six months or six years wondering what I should have done.”
Life on hold
Mr Furlong said the family’s lives have been on hold since the killing on May 24th last year. “It’s been our life for the last nine months. We don’t know what we’ll do when it’s over.”
“We’ve been so focused on it and that is what has got us through this,” said Mrs Furlong. “We know how strong we need to be for Nic. The real grieving will start when we get home. I firmly believe we haven’t grieved for her yet.”
Mr Hinds’s family is expected to come to the trial from Memphis, Tennessee. The second victim of the assault has also arrived in Tokyo and is expected to testify next week for the prosecution. The verdict will be delivered on March 19th. A decision in the trial of James Blackston, who faces four years in jail for sexual assault, is due on March 13th.