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Key dates in Lucie investigation

The inquiry into the disappearance of British hostess Lucie Blackman led to a long investigation which is finally drawing to a close. This is how events unfolded.

The scene where Lucie Blackman's body was discovered
Lucie's body was discovered in February 2001

2000

4 May: Lucie Blackman arrives in Tokyo after giving up her job with British Airways to travel around Asia. She soon gets a job as a hostess in a club.

1 July: She vanishes after telling a friend she was going out for the afternoon with a man.

2 July: The same friend receives a call from a man calling himself Akira Takagi, who says Miss Blackman has joined a religious cult and would not be seen again.

3 July: The Blackman family is told she has not been seen for two days.

4 July: Her younger sister, Sophie, flies to Japan to try to find her.

12 July: Miss Blackman's father, Tim, arrives in Tokyo to join the search.

13 July: Mr Blackman appeals for information, rejecting suggestions his daughter might have run away to escape credit card debts or had joined a religious cult.

15 July: Mr Blackman meets Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, in Japan for a summit. He urges the Japanese public to help in the hunt.

18 July: A nationwide appeals prompt 100 calls from the Japanese public. Mr Blackman and Sophie carry out their own investigations, establishing an office in Tokyo and a confidential hotline, staffed by ex-pats. The family offer a 9,500 reward for Miss Blackman's release, later increased to 100,000 by an anonymous businessman.

21 July: Prime Minister Tony Blair meets the Blackmans during a flying visit to Tokyo and promises to raise the matter with his Japanese counterpart.

1 August: The Tokyo police receive a letter from someone purporting to be Miss Blackman, which says: "I am doing what I want so please leave me alone." Detectives and her father dismiss it as a fake.

1 September: Her family release balloons on Miss Blackman's 22nd birthday. Mr Blackman says police are investigating a tip that Miss Blackman could have been kidnapped and shipped to Hong Kong as a sex slave.

3 September: Miss Blackman's mother, Jane, discloses that Sir Richard Branson has secretly funded a 30-second information appeal to be screened in Japanese cinemas.

20 September: Mr Blackman flies back to England, having spent tens of thousands of pounds in the unsuccessful search for his daughter.

11 October: Police question businessman Joji Obara, who is already on trial over a series of rapes, about Miss Blackman's disappearance.

11 November: Obara finally admits having met Miss Blackman but denies playing any part in her disappearance.

2001

9 February: Police find body parts buried in a cave on a beach near Obara's seaside home in Miura, close to Tokyo.

10 February: Police confirm the remains are those of Miss Blackman, ending a seven-month search by her family, who are naturally devastated.

29 March: More than 200 family and friends attend Miss Blackman's funeral in Chislehurst, Kent. Messages of sympathy are sent by Tony Blair and the Japanese ambassador.

6 April: Police charge Joji Obara with raping and fatally assaulting Miss Blackman.

3 July: Obara appears in court and formally pleads not guilty to raping and killing her.

2003

18 July: A 60-year-old London man, Michael Hills, is jailed for three-and-a-half years for conning the Blackman family out of 15,000. The court heard that, with Lucie still missing, Hills had claimed he had connections in the Japanese underworld and could help secure her release.

27 November: Obara's trial begins in Tokyo. He is also accused of killing a 21-year-old Australian hostess, Carita Ridgway, who died after being drugged and raped in February 1992.

2006:

20 April: With the court sitting only once a month, the trial drags on for three years. Her mother, Jane Steare, finally got the chance to tell the court of her ordeal. She said: "To lose a child and to know her body was desecrated in such an evil way is the greatest and most unrelenting pain I have ever had to endure."

25 April: Lucie's father finally got the opportunity to tell the court what damage Lucie's death had done to the family. He said her sister Sophie had attempted suicide and her brother Rupert had been "tortured" by her death.

30 September: Tim Blackman reveals that he had accepted a payment of 100 million yen (453,797) by a friend of Obara. He said his ex-wife did not agree with him accepting the "offer of condolence", which is fairly common under Japanese law. But he said a substantial share of the money would go to the Lucie Blackman Trust, a charity he had set up.

3 October: Prosecutors urge a panel of judges, led by Judge Tsutomu Tochigi, to impose a life sentence on Obara. One prosecutor described him as "a beast with a human face" and said: ''These crimes were bizarre and extremely vicious, and they were unprecedented sexual crimes.''

2007:

24 April:

Obara is acquitted of raping and killing Lucie.

However, he is sentenced to life imprisonment for raping nine other women, including one - Australian Carita Ridgway - who died.

2008

16 December:

On appeal at Tokyo High Court, Obara is convicted of abducting Lucie and dismembering and concealing her body.

Judge Hiroshi Kadono said he accepted that the businessman had been the last person to see her alive, but there was not enough evidence to convict him of her rape and murder.



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