Lindsay Ann Hawker was born December 30, 1984 in England and graduated college in 2006. She came to Japan to teach English with Nova, the company that originally hired me. I was twenty-two when I came here, the same age that she was when murdered in 2007 by a man who had asked her for private English lessons. He buried her in a dirt-filled bathtub on his balcony, and fled barefoot from the police (to whom she had been reported missing.)
For two years I’ve been on the alert for any news about the case – not that there was much. Her family would visit Japan on the anniversary of her death, begging for the investigation to make more of an effort, the tabloids would report that Ichihashi had been spotted in some seedy part of Tokyo. To be honest I didn’t have much hope after all this time – there were reports that he’d likely fled the country or committed suicide. His picture was still plastered up outside every train station.
Late October there was a breakthrough when the plastic surgery where he’d gotten the latest of a string of operations came forward and provided a picture of his new face. One report I read pointed out the curious fact that most people get plastic surgery to make themselves stand out – Ichihashi wanted his face to be as average as possible. Now the public had a more accurate face to look for – and unexpectedly, the media’s interest flared up. I wasn’t here for the original case, of course, so I can’t say how well it was covered at the time. But for some reason, the news found Ichihashi’s surgery fascinating, and his before-after picture was on every channel.
On November 10, 2009, he was apprehended in Osaka waiting for a ferry to Okinawa. I got a little teary when I saw the news, and again when they interviewed her family back in England, and again when they interviewed his parents – who, unlike the usual relations to criminals who get filmed from the neck down, showed their faces to all the cameras.
I know there’s no point to a trial when it can’t give Lindsay back her life, and I know that no legal system is without its faults. But the past few days I kept help an overwhelming sense of relief – for her, for her family, for his family, for the police, for the reporters – and in a weird way, for Ichihashi himself. “You don’t have to keep running or hiding. You don’t have to change your face anymore.” For all of us girls who go thousands of miles away from our homes and families to a country where we don’t know the language or the culture, who come to teach and learn and sometimes get far more than we bargained for.