The Chiba District Court on Thursday sentenced Tatsuya Ichihashi to life imprisonment over the death of British teacher Lindsey Ann Hawker in March 2007. Ichihashi, 32, had admitted raping and killing Hawker, an English teacher, but said he took her life accidentally.
But presiding judge Masaya Hotta said Ichihashi strangled Hawker for at least three minutes, reflecting "clear premeditation to kill."
The judge said Ichihashi killed Hawker to cover up the rape, adding that he rejected the killer's claim of remorse because of his determined efforts to avoid capture.
"We cannot find words" to describe the tragedy of Hawker's death, the judge told the court, adding that the victim's life ended "in a hopeless situation at the age of 22, when life should be full of possibilities."
As the judge read out the ruling, a motionless Ichihashi stared at the ground, NTV reported.
Hawker's family -- her father, mother and two sisters visiting Japan to hear the verdict -- repeatedly wiped tears and nodded many times in approval as the sentence was read out, it said.
Hawker's father Bill had earlier urged the court to show "no mercy" and called for the death penalty -- a punishment usually reserved for cases of multiple homicide.
Hawker's parents were also present at Ichihashi's trial, which took place between July 4 and 12, and gave testimony.
Six male citizen jurors and three judges gave their verdict shortly after 2:30 p.m. Under Japan's penal code, Ichihashi may be eligible for parole after he serves a minimum of 10 years.
Outside the courtroom, Bill Hawker said: "We have waited 4 1/2 years to get justice for Lindsey and today we have achieved this. We are very pleased. I'd like to thank the Japanese police who never stopped looking for Ichihashi. Lindsey loved Japan and you never let her down."
Lindsay, from a village near Coventry in central England, was 22 when her body -- naked and bound at the wrists and ankles -- was found in a bathtub filled with sand on the balcony of Ichihashi's apartment.
The autopsy showed she died of suffocation, and prosecutors said Ichihashi strangled her after the rape.
Ichihashi spent more than two-and-a-half years on the run after the crime and had plastic surgery to evade capture. Prosecutors had demanded life for Ichihashi, condemning his crime as "coarse and extremely self-centered."
Ichihashi testified that after raping her, he bound her and spoke to her for hours, seeking forgiveness. He says she choked to death when he covered her mouth to stop her from screaming for help but he did not mean to kill her.
After the killing, Ichihashi went on the run, working in temporary jobs between Aomori in Japan's north and Okinawa island in the far south.
He used the money from odd jobs to pay for cosmetic surgery, altering his eyelids and nose and having a facial mole removed in an effort to evade police.
Ichihashi, whose wanted poster was a common sight at police stations and public offices across Japan, was caught in November 2009 after a witness tip-off at a ferry terminal as he tried to catch a boat to Okinawa.
He wrote a book titled "Until the Arrest" about his life on the run and offered the proceeds to the Hawker family, an offer they have declined.© Agence France-Presse