Furlong murder accused won’t get death penalty

The family of murdered DCU student Nicola Furlong criticised the sentence handed down to Richard Hinds who was found guilty of the murder of the 21 year old Wexford woman by a Tokyo court on Tuesday morning.

Hinds, a 19 year old Musician from Tennessee, was given a 5 -10 year sentence – the maximum he could receive because of his age.

Handing down the sentence, Chief judge Masaharu Ashizawa said Hinds’ testimony was “not credible” and had “tainted the honour of his victim”.

Judge Ashizawa said the court concluded that he had strangled Ms Furlong using either a towel or a tank top, both of which had traces of her DNA.

He said the attack was “atrocious and vicious in nature”.

Hinds denied murdering the Co Wexford woman at the Keio Plaza Hotel on May 24th last year but admitted putting “light pressure” on her neck.

Speaking outside the court after sentencing, Ms Furlong’s mother Angela said: “Nicola’s life was worth more than that. It really, really was. It’s good that they’ve cleared her name.

“Nicola had done nothing wrong. It was all him and his lies that brought us here. We still don’t know the truth, what happened in that room, but we know that Nicola did nothing wrong. We knew that coming out anyway.”

Nicola’s father Andrew said: “We got her name cleared, and that’s what I came out (for) and hopefully to get more of a sentence, but that didn’t happen. We went with the Japanese. It’s their country. I’ll take it.

Nicola’s sister, Andrea, said she was disgusted at the sentence.

“I’m so angry and I’m so hurt. We had so much faith in the Japanese doing justice for us and I don’t feel we got it. So I’m disgusted,” she said.

Andrea Furlong had previously declared her desire for a “life for a life” to be taken while reading her victim impact statement to the court.

“He ruined all of our lives so a life for a life”, she said.

In her statement to the court during the trial, Nicola’s mother Angie admitted that while she did not desire the death penalty to be imposed on Richard Hinds, she felt the punishment should at least reflect the hurt he had caused the Furlong family.

Nicola had been studying for a year abroad at the Takasaki City University of Economics in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, northwest of Tokyo as part of her DCU course.

Earlier in the week, Hinds admitted he had his two hands around the Wexford woman’s neck moments before she died from strangulation, but said he did not believe the pressure applied was sufficient to cause her death.

Looking directly at Nicola’s father Andrew Furlong on the last day of the court hearing, Hinds said he was not “a strangler, a murderer or a pervert”.

Hinds and friend James Blackston met Nicola and another Irish student after a Nicki Minaj concert in Tokyo on May 24th last year. After having a few drinks, the pair brought the women back to their hotel in the city. In CCTV footage shown during the trial, the men can be seen laughing and talking crudely in the taxi on the way back to their hotel. During cross-examination, Hinds claimed he was speaking ironically at the time and did not mean what he said.

When asked why he had put his hands on the Wexford woman’s neck that night, Hinds replied that he was trying to calm her down.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1 during the trial, Nicola’s father Andrew Furlong spoke of the family’s distress at hearing Hind’s portrayal of the girl they adored. “It would make your blood boil… that they were going out looking for men, looking for sex” he said, before describing how he still feels some guilt for having originally encouraged Nicola to travel to Japan.

The defence had previously argued a combination of alcohol and drugs present in Nicola’s system had been the cause of her death. A forensic expert, however, confirmed that this could not have been the case as the 21-year-old’s respiratory system did not shut down, which would have occurred if drugs had killed her.

Lidocaine and Xanax substances were present in her system as medics had applied the former after Nicola’s death and her Wexford doctor had prescribed the latter for anxiety associated with her trip to Japan.

Nicola’s friend, an Irish student who was also on an exchange programme at Takasaki City University and has not been identified, addressed the court via video link on the fourth day of the trial.

In an emotional account of events, she described Nicola as “the most kind, generous person” and said that while the pair had consumed a large quantity of alcohol on the day in question, Nicola had never blacked out from being drunk and had never taken drugs that would make her unconscious.

Hinds’ friend James Blackston, meanwhile, was sentenced to three years imprisonment on Wednesday March 13th for sexually assaulting Nicola’s friend on the night. Similar to Hinds, Blackston failed to show remorse for his actions during his trial and claimed it was Nicola’s friend who had initiated sex.

Sarah Burmingham

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