Police on Tuesday night arrested the suspect in the 2007 murder of a British woman after fingerprints confirmed he is Tatsuya Ichihashi, a 30-year-old fugitive wanted in the case.
Ichihashi, who had altered his appearance through cosmetic surgery, was taken to Suminoe police station. He is currently only wanted on a technical charge of abandoning the body of language school teacher Lindsay Hawker, who was 22 at the time of her death, at his apartment. Chiba prefectural police said they will upgrade the charge to murder.
Ichihashi was taken into custody on the second floor of Nanko ferry terminal after police received a phone call at 6:44 p.m. from another passenger at the terminal saying that a man resembling Ichihashi was sitting by himself. Two police officers arrived at first and approached Ichihashi who was wearing a gray jacket, black cap and sunglasses. Two other officers arrived shortly after.
Witnesses told NHK that Ichihashi remained calm and could be heard telling the police his name. He had been reportedly waiting to board a ferry for Okinawa after coming from Kobe earlier in the day.
Ichihashi was transported from Shin-Osaka station to Chiba by bullet train later Tuesday night.
NHK also aired comments from Ichihashi's parents. His father said they were relieved to hear that their son had been taken into custody. They expressed sorrow for the Hawker family and urged their son to explain clearly what he did.
Meanwhile, Hawker's father Bill told TBS in a telephone interview on Tuesday night that his nightmare is finally over. "I very much look forward to seeing Ichihashi across a courtroom, so I can look him in the face," Hawker said.
The case has attracted widespread public attention as Ichihashi, who media reports once suggested had killed himself, was found alive and with a new look after undergoing plastic surgery on several occasions.
Ichihashi escaped from police officers when they called at his apartment in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, in March 2007 and then found Hawker's body inside a sand-filled bathtub on the balcony. The police later distributed fliers and offered a 10 million yen reward for information leading to his whereabouts.
Hawker's family also visited Japan to ask for help in resolving the case, but no significant progress had been made over the last two and a half years.
The case took a sudden turn when Ichihashi showed up at a clinic in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, in late October for another round of plastic surgery. The police soon released a photograph of his post-surgery face with double-fold eyelids instead of single, a higher nose bridge and thinner lips, and it was widely displayed.
It led to numerous further discoveries about him, including his attempt to receive another plastic surgery operation in Fukuoka Prefecture. He was also found to have lived and worked at a construction company in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, for over a year up until this October.© News reports