Teen Guilty Of Irish Student Murder In Tokyo

A Japanese court has found an American teenager guilty of the murder of Irish student Nicola Furlong in Tokyo last year.

The 21-year-old Dublin CIty University exchange student was found strangled in an upmarket hotel early on May 24, 2012, after attending a hip-hop concert.

Richard Hinds, of Memphis, Tennessee, stood silently as he was found guilty of what the presiding judge called a "vicious" attack.

The court ruled that he had strangled the exchange student with a towel or tank top in the Keio Plaza hotel in the city's Shinjuku district.

The 19-year-old was ordered to serve a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 10 years.

Hinds and another American were accused of taking Ms Furlong and one of her friends to the hotel after they had passed out in a bar.

The Tokyo District Court ruled that Hinds strangled Ms Furlong when she regained consciousness to keep her quiet.

The other man, James Blackston, a 23-year-old dancer from Los Angeles, was seen with Hinds bringing Ms Furlong and her unnamed friend unconscious into the hotel on CCTV footage which was played to the court.

He was convicted last week of sexually assaulting the second girl and sentenced to three years in jail.

The judge said Hinds had shown no sign of remorse and had tainted Ms Furlong's honour.

Regarded as a minor under Japanese law, a 10-year sentence was the maximum Hinds could receive.

But outside the court, Ms Furlong's family expressed anger, saying they had wanted a heavier punishment.

Her mother Angela said: "Nicola's life was worth more than that."

She added: "It's good that they (judges) cleared her name. Nicola has done nothing wrong. It was all him and his lies that brought us out here.

"We still don't know the truth of what happened in that room but we know Nicola did nothing wrong, we knew that coming out anyway."

Her sister Andrea said: "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. I'm disgusted."

The defence had maintained Hinds' innocence, arguing that Ms Furlong died after a cocktail of alcohol and drugs.

Ms Furlong had been studying and living about 62 miles (100km) north of Tokyo, at Takasaki City University of Economics as part of an exchange programme.

According to evidence in both trials, Ms Furlong and her friend, who is also Irish but whose name was withheld in court, went to the city to see a concert by US rapper Nicki Minaj.

After the concert, the two met Hinds and Blackston and went with them to a bar. At some point both of the women passed out.

Prosecutors suggested they were drugged.

Security camera footage presented as evidence showed Blackston sexually assaulting Ms Furlong's friend in a taxi on the way to the hotel, where the men borrowed wheelchairs to get the unconscious women to the rooms.

After the verdict, Hinds, a Christian musician, said a brief farewell to his family before he was escorted away to prison.

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