The family of murdered Irish exchange student Nicola Furlong has faced her alleged killer for the first time in a Japanese courtroom.

The 19-year-old American musician, who cannot be named in Japan because he is a minor, is charged with strangling Ms Furlong, 21, to death in an upmarket Tokyo hotel in May.

Andrew Furlong heard prosecutors' opening arguments in the case yesterday with Nicola's mother Angela and their remaining daughter Andrea by his side.

The first hearings are taking place in a family court because the suspect is a juvenile under Japanese law.

A judge is due to rule tomorrow whether he can be tried in a criminal court.

The family is known to have given the court a statement, describing the impact of the murder on their lives.

This is standard practice in Japanese trials of serious crimes.

They also have heard the first detailed police report on Nicola's death.

They will be back in court tomorrow to hear the judge's decision.

Police believe that the suspect and another American man plied Ms Furlong and her Irish friend with drugs or alcohol after a rap concert.

They were then taken back to the Shinjuku Plaza Hotel in central Tokyo where the alleged murder took place on 24 May.

The trial is likely to hinge on the results of toxicology reports on Ms Furlong, which police have so far not released.