Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will recall that in May of last year I began to cover a trial of two American men jailed in Tokyo after the death of a young Irish exchange student. Initially, I became interested in the trial because there were rumors that the two young men were part of Nicki Minaj’s Japanese tour. One was a musician, and the other a dancer. It turned out that the two men were on tour with Ai. The four met following a Nicki Minaj concert and tragically, Nicola ended up dead. Over the months that followed I became interested in the case. This blog was relatively new at the time, and I was surprised at the sudden rise in viewers from both Ireland and Japan. There was very little coverage of this story in the United States. In previous articles, a number of comments began to appear from friends and family of the two Americans involved. Richard Hinds, who was accused of murder at the time. had many supporters. He was very active in the Memphis music scene and in his church. Former girlfriends and musical mentors commented that Rich, as they refer to him was innocent and that it was not in his nature to commit the heinous acts he was accused of. Fundraisers were set up for Richard and family and friends held frequent prayer vigils. Their comments were heartbreaking. Several Irish journalists began contacting Tamaratattles hoping to contact those commenting on behalf of Richard Hinds. We were practically the only stateside coverage of the trial at that time.
At the same time, friends of the two young women from Ireland began to comment. One had been murdered and another sexually assaulted. They were grief-stricken and angry with the supporters of the two men who had committed crimes on their loved ones. Both groups were clashing angrily in comments. The friends of Nicola and the other young lady left equally heartbreaking comments. They too held fundraisers and prayer vigils to help the families attend the trial in Japan.Recently, James Blackson was convicted in the sexual molestation of the second young woman and also on an unrelated charge of sexually assaulting a young woman from Brazil. He received three years in a Japanese prison with labor.
Today, According to Irish News Media, RTE, ”Richard Hinds has been found guilty of the murder of Irish student Nicola Furlong in Tokyo last May. He was given a sentence of a minimum of five years and a maximum of ten years with labour. Chief judge Masaharu Ashizawa said this was the maximum sentence possible because Hinds was a minor under Japanese law. He said Hinds’ testimony was “not credible” and had “tainted the honour of his victim.” Judge Ashizawa said the court concluded he had strangled Ms Furlong using either a towel or a tank top, both of which had traces of her DNA. He said the attack was “atrocious and vicious in nature”.
Those present in the courtroom throughout the trial have been angered by Hinds demeanor and testimony. The Furlong family is frustrated that 19-year-old Hinds is considered a minor in the Japanese court system and could be sentenced to no more than 10 years (Though it was previously reported he would be tried as an adult that did not happen). Nicola’s sister was particularly outraged as she wanted Hinds tried as an adult and therefore eligible for the death penalty. The family is very disappointed with the sentencing. The judge stated in his ruling that Hinds failed to show any remorse as he handed down the maximum sentence according to Japanese law.This story has been one of the most heart wrenching and unsettling topics I have covered here. As someone who frequently travels alone, and has felt quite comfortable drinking in bars and making new friends, it was a prudent reminder that we all need to be extremely careful to ensure that on our travels we take steps to be sure to protect ourselves in unfamiliar environments. Tamaratattles extends deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the two young women whose one-year exchange program came to such a tragic end.
If you are interested in previous articles on this case, click this link for a listing.