The friend of Nicola Furlong who was with her on the night she was killed last May gave emotional and tearful testimony to Tokyo District Court today about the loss of her friend and her anger at the man standing trial for her murder.
“Nicola was the most kind and gently and generous person I have ever met,” she said, she was an amazing person with such a bright future, that she can’t have any more,” she said, sobbing.
She also criticised the man accused of murdering the 21-year old Wexford woman in a Tokyo hotel on May 24th for not taking responsibility for her death.
Speaking about 19-year old American Richard Hinds, who denies murdering Ms Furlong, the friend said, “I feel so angry that he took her away from me and her family and that he isn’t taking any responsibility for the life that he took, I am just so angry.”
She also said that she and Ms Furlong first met the men outside a train station after attending a Nicki Minaj concert. “They asked us where we were going,” she said, contradicting a statement on Monday by the defendant that it was the women who first approached the men.
Ms Furlong’s friend was questioned by the defence and the prosecution about the amount of alcohol she and Ms Furlong drank that day. She said they each drank about 750ml of a cocktail that was two-thirds orange juice and one-third vodka.
She also said that they had drunk a cassis and soda at the concert they attended on the evening of May 23rd and that she had drunk two tequilas in a bar that she had gone to with Ms Furlong, Mr Hinds and his friend James Blackston.
She also said she lost consciousness while drinking with the men. “All I remember is is having the second shot and after that I don’t remember anything.”
Footage from the taxi that carried the two Irish women, Mr Hinds and Mr Blackston from the bar where they had been drinking to the Keio Plaza hotel where Ms Furlong was killed, shows Ms Furlong and her friend in an unconscious state.
It is not clear how the women became unconscious within a short time. Evidence given yesterday about blood tests appeared to rule out the suspicion that their drinks were spiked.
Asked if she had ever lost consciousness before, she said that on one occasion, she had drunk too much at a party and had forgotten temporarily where she had left her shoes, but had never experienced a blackout from alcohol. She also said that neither she nor Nicola ever took drugs that would have made them unconscious.
The blood test results also showed that the alcohol level in Ms Furlong’s blood was 2.14mg of alcohol per 1ml of blood, a level characterised in testimony yesterday by Dr Kenichi Yoshida, an expert in forensic medicine as not high enough to be a factor in her death. “in this case it is very clear the cause of death was due to strangulation,” he told the court.
Nicola Furlong’s friend was not identified in court and she spoke via video link from another room, apparently in the same court building. She previously gave testimony via video link in December in the trial of Mr Blackston, a 23-year-old dancer, who has been tried for assaulting her. She was referred to in that trial as ‘Victim A’. Mr Blackston is currently awaiting sentencing.
Mr Hinds sat impassive in court today throughout the testimony of Ms Furlong’s friend. Two of his family members, including his older brother Claude, sat in the public gallery.
Referring to the video footage from the taxi, which shows Mr Blackston assaulting her, Ms Furlong's friend said: “I wasn’t aware that it had happened until maybe two days later when the police told me they had seen video footage from the taxi of this happening.”
She also said that she had not viewed the footage, “I think it would be too traumatic to see someone doing something to me that I didn’t want them to do.”
During yesterday’s evidence an expert in forensic medicine told how Nicola suffered a long and painful death.
“She didn’t die quickly. It took minutes and she died in great distress,” Dr Kenichi Yoshida told Tokyo District court.
He also said that Ms Furlong would have fought back, pointing to autopsy photographs of “scratch marks and abrasions that could have been caused by the victim herself when she was struggling to resist strangulation by the assailant.”
He ruled out any other cause of death, adding, “she didn’t just die, she was killed,” he said.
Dr Yoshida also said that a soft object such as a rolled-up towel or item of clothing was likely used to kill the 21-year-old student from Wexford.
Ms Furlong’s DNA was found on a towel and a tank top in Mr Hinds’ room in Tokyo’s Keio Plaza hotel where Ms Furlong was killed.
Dr Yoshida said that the autopsy showed internal bleeding in several places and that there was a 5cm wide mark going around her neck where she was choked.