"The last time I met Ichihashi-kun was in April 2012, just before he appealed his sentence. He said to me, 'I want to atone for my crime in a way no one can know.'"
Shukan Bunshun (Jan 3-10) reports that Naoki Motoyama, professor emeritus at Chiba University and mentor of convicted killer Tatsuya Ichihashi when he studied horticulture there, met regularly with his former student until his sentence of life in prison was finalized last spring.
Ichihashi, 28 at the time of the crime, became the target of a national dragnet after he murdered 22-year-old English teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker in March 2007. After evading capture for three years, he was finally arrested in 2009.
Prof Motoyama was first able to visit Ichihashi in 2011, six years after their last previous encounter.
"I expected him to shout at me, but he spoke as if forcing out his words, saying 'I'm sorry, (what I did) was inexcusable.' When I asked him what he had done, from the time we'd last met up until he committed the murder, huge tears ran down his face; it was then I realized that something had happened during that time that provoked him to commit the crime."
Motoyama continued to visit Ichihashi in jail on a weekly basis.
"I also had an opportunity to hear Ichihashi give details about the girl he had been seeing around the time of the incident," Motoyama relates. "She worked at Tokyo Disneyland and Ichihashi liked her so much that he chose to write his graduation thesis about the landscaping at Disneyland."
The two appear to have taken trips together. Ichihashi, in preparation for going abroad to study, had begun to learn English. On numerous occasions, he was said to have broached the idea of ending their relationship.
A "NEET" (Not in Education, Employment or Training), he'd been receiving an allowance of several hundred thousand yen per month from his parents, enabling him to rent a 3LDK apartment.
"Around the end of March 2007, Ichihashi said he wanted to support himself," says Motoyama. "He became psychologically unstable.
"Up to 3 a.m. on the day of Hawker's murder, his ex-girlfriend had been at his residence. They quarreled and she fled his apartment, but apparently sat fuming in her car for the next two hours in the apartment's parking lot before going home. The next day she returned in the hope of patching up their relationship, and saw that the police had strung up tape to block it off as a crime scene.
"The sight of the tape made her feel full of regret," Motoyama added.
In November 2011, Motoyama escorted the ex-girlfriend to visit Ichihashi in the detention center.
"Ichihashi had told me he 'didn't want to meet her,' but I counseled him that it was a good way to take responsibility for his actions. He said 'gomen' and bowed his head in accord. She'd had many fond memories of their times together, she told him; the encounter made it possible for the two of them to dispel any bad feelings.
"I'd already told Ichihashi beforehand that she had plans to wed. He said to her, 'You'll be getting married, won't you?' Then she asked him, 'Can I come to see you one more time?' He just shook his head from side to side without speaking. I guess he felt concern for her new life."
Motoyama says he doesn't know in which prison Ichihashi is currently incarcerated.
"During the 10 months we'd been meeting, Ichihashi repeatedly asked, 'Why did I do such a stupid thing?' But we never discussed his crime per se. I suppose he will need more time to deal with it. The best thing will be for him to reflect on his act in a quiet environment, and rehabilitate himself."© Japan Today