Japan's face-change fugitive "sorry" for killing Brit teacher

A Japanese man has testified to raping and strangling a young British teacher, whose body was found buried in a bathtub, before undergoing multiple rounds of plastic surgery to change his appearance while on the run.

Tatsuya Ichihashi, 32, evaded capture for two-and-a-half years, including hiding out on a remote island, ABC News reports.

He is accused of raping and killing 22-year-old teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker, then burying her naked body in a sand-filled bathtub on his Tokyo balcony in March 2007.

On the opening day of his murder trial (July 4) in Chiba District Court, Mr Ichihashi, reportedly knelt on the floor and bowed to family members of the slain teacher who told reporters they had travelled to Japan “to seek justice”.

As the BBC reports, Mr Ichihashi admitted to raping the teacher from Brandon, near Coventry, and causing her death, but said he did not intend to kill her.
"I did not intend to kill her, but I am responsible for her death – I am very sorry for what I did," he told the court.

Miss Hawker taught Mr Ichihashi English at a private language school in the city of Chiba, part of the Greater Tokyo Area.

In court, the defence argued Mr Ichihashi had tried to revive Miss Hawker after accidentally suffocating her in a bid to stop her crying out for help.

Under Japan’s legal system, Miss Hawker’s family members will be allowed to speak as prosecution witnesses during the opening session, and again before sentencing. The trial has drawn huge interest, with almost 1,000 people lining up for just 57 seats in the visitor's gallery.

The accused killer wants to donate royalties from a book written in prison to the Hawker family. According to AAP, the book, aptly entitled Until The Arrest, describes his life on the run, including how he scissored off his lower lip, dug two moles out of his cheek with a box cutter and even gave himself a nose job in an attempt to obscure his identity.

Murder carries a possible death sentence in Japan. A verdict is expected on July 21.