Friday 15 November 2019

Nicola's family flies out for trial over her death

Brian Hutton

The heartbroken family of a murdered Irish exchange student is making a tense trip to Japan for the trial of the man accused of the killing.

Nicola Furlong (21) was found strangled in an upmarket hotel in central Tokyo last May after a night out with a friend at a concert.

The death sent shockwaves through her home village of Curracloe, Co Wexford, and further afield.

Richard Hinds, a 19-year-old musician from Memphis, Tennessee, in the US, has admitted strangling Nicola but denies killing her intentionally.

He remains in custody in Tokyo and his trial begins on Monday.

Nicola's parents, Andrew and Angie, and her sister, Andrea, are all making the journey to Japan for the trial which is expected to last for more than a week.

Justice

Pat Furlong, Nicola's uncle, said the three – who will be accompanied by some friends – do not know what to expect.

"Their mood is very poor," he said. "This is taking a lot out of them. They don't know what to expect. They just want to see some justice done."

Mr Furlong said his brother's family would stay in Tokyo for three weeks, to await the trial's outcome.

"They just want to get on with it now," he said. "They want to get over there and get it over with and get back. It will be an anxious three weeks for them. It is a lot of pressure for them."

Nicola, a Dublin City University student, had been studying as part of an exchange programme at Takasaki City University of Economics, around 100km north of Tokyo.

On the day of her death she had travelled by train to Tokyo with an Irish friend to see a concert by US rapper Nicki Minaj.

The pair met Mr Hinds and James Blackston, a 23-year-old professional dancer from Los Angeles, after the gig and went to a bar.

Mr Blackston has denied sexually assaulting Nicola's unidentified friend – referred to as "Victim A" – in a separate trial.

She told that trial she can't remember anything after taking a drink provided by one of the men on the night of the killing.

CCTV footage has captured the four in a taxi travelling to the Keio Plaza Hotel later that evening, while the two women are apparently unconscious.

It is alleged Mr Blackston groped Victim A and used explicit sexual language during the journey. The two men then allegedly borrowed wheelchairs at the hotel to transport the girls to their rooms.

The verdict in the trial of Mr Blackston, who is not accused of any part in Nicola's killing, is due on March 13.

Irish Independent

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