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Saturday, 10 February, 2001, 13:38 GMT
Tragic end to father's search
Tim Blackman, daughter Sophie and Tony Blair
Tim Blackman and daughter Sophie with Tony Blair
After seven months of hoping that Lucie Blackman would be found alive the waiting has ended in tragedy for her family.

Police have identified the remains found in a beachside cave near Tokyo as those of the British bar hostess.

Her father Tim and sister Sophie became the public face of her family's grief after Lucie vanished on 1 July last year.

Since then, Mr Blackman, a property developer who lives in Ryde, Isle of Wight, has made numerous trips to Japan in a bid to find what happened to her.

When he first arrived in Tokyo 12 days after her disappearance, he promised not to let "conjecture cloud our judgement and our optimism that Lucie will be found".

Lucie disappeared while working as a hostess in the Casablanca club.

Criminal gangs

Rumours abounded that she has been kidnapped as a sex slave by Japanese criminal gangs or a religious cult.

Lucie Blackman
The Blackman family endured seven months of waiting and hoping

Seven months on, and Mr Blackman and his family resigned themselves that their daughter would not be found alive.

And on Friday a woman's body was discovered near the home of the chief suspect.

Before it was identifed as that of his daughter, Mr Blackman said: "I held a hope in my heart for many weeks that perhaps I would be asked to go to Tokyo and at best bring Lucie home alive, at worst to identify her body.

"I think the only belief I can really hold on to which gives me some strength is that if indeed this is Lucie and if indeed she lost her life in this way, it is highly likely she knew very little about it."

Confidence drained away when Mr Blackman spent weeks handing out leaflets in the red light Roppongi district of Tokyo.

He also set up an office in the district and a confidential phoneline in a bid to find more information about his daughter's disappearance.


I have just about run out of things to do. I've never felt so helpless. I can't speak the language. I'm not the same person since this tragedy began

Tim Blackman

He met the Prime Minister Tony Blair who also issued a personal appeal for her return.

Mr Blackman had offered a 10,000 reward, and a generous benefactor upped that reward to 100,000, but there was still no word.

Hopelessness

In an interview with an English language magazine in Japan, Mr Blackman spoke of his feelings of hopelessness as the months went on.

"I have just about run out of things to do. I've never felt so helpless. I can't speak the language. I'm not the same person since this tragedy began," he said.

"You know how sometimes you have a nightmare, dreaming of some terrible thing happening to you. And you know the relief you feel when you wake up, wipe the sweat off your face and think, 'Wow, I'm glad that was just a dream!' My situation is reversed"

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