Furlong accused addresses court before judges retire in Tokyo trial

Wednesday 13 March 2013 16.56
1 of 4
Irish student Nicola Furlong was murdered in a Tokyo hotel last year
Irish student Nicola Furlong was murdered in a Tokyo hotel last year
Richard Hinds was given the opportunity to address the court
Richard Hinds was given the opportunity to address the court
Mr Hinds said the death of Nicola had given him 'a painful thorn'
Mr Hinds said the death of Nicola had given him 'a painful thorn'
Nicola Furlong's parents sit behind the prosecution lawyers during the trial
Nicola Furlong's parents sit behind the prosecution lawyers during the trial

Closing arguments have been heard in the trial of the man accused of murdering Irish student Nicola Furlong in Japan.

The accused, Richard Hinds from Memphis, Tennessee, broke down in court and told the Furlong family that he firmly believed he did not kill their daughter.

The 21-year-old Wexford woman was found dead in the Keio Plaza hotel in Tokyo's Shinjuku district on 24 May last year.

The prosecution wants Mr Hinds to serve a ten-year prison sentence – the maximum sentence a minor can receive in Japan.

The defence maintains that Mr Hinds is innocent.

The prosecution today laid out its case that Mr Hinds strangled Ms Furlong in his hotel room last year.

The lawyer said Mr Hinds had violated the dignity of Ms Furlong, not only by his acts but by his testimony.

He said the accused deserved the death penalty, but as a minor should face the maximum possible sentence of ten years.

Mr Hinds' defence lawyer said that no matter how much the prosecution imagines or assumes, “you can't prove the accused killed Nicola by strangling her".

He questioned the lack of motive and called on the judges to consider reasonable doubt and find him innocent.

Mr Hinds, 19, told the court that Ms Furlong's death had given him "a painful thorn".

He said he believed that "nothing good, bad or ugly will go through me without going through God first".

The death of Ms Furlong had given him "a thorn", he said.

It had given the Furlongs a thorn, as well as the defence and prosecution lawyers, he said.

Mr Hinds said when he looked around the court, he saw a room full of humans, not gods.

He told the judges that he was not "a professional strangler, a murderer or a pervert" but that he did feel deep remorse for the family of Ms Furlong.

He was interrupted twice by a prosecution lawyer.

To the Furlongs directly, he said he "firmly" believed he did not kill their daughter and he told them that she did not suffer.

Ms Furlong, a Dublin City University student from Curracloe, had been studying and living 100km north of the capital, at Takasaki City University of Economics, as part of an exchange programme.

The judges have retired to consider their verdict, which is due to be delivered on Tuesday.

Separately, James Blackston, accused of the sexual assault of an Irish woman who was with Ms Furlong on the night she died last May, has been sentenced to three years with labour at Tokyo District Court.

The sentence relates to an attack on Ms Furlong's friend and another attack on a woman in a different part of Japan in April last year.

The court deducted 150 days from the sentence for the time the 23-year-old American has already served.