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The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Tokyo
"Her colleagues believe she was with a customer the day she disappeared"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 12 July, 2000, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Father joins Tokyo police in 'cult' search
Tim Blackman arrives in Tokyo
Tim Blackman will hold a press appeal on Thursday
The father of missing nightclub hostess Lucie Blackman has joined detectives in Tokyo investigating possible links between her disappearance and religious cults.

Lucie's father Tim, 46, a property developer, from Ryde, Isle of Wight, arrived in Japan with his other daughter, Sophie, 19, on Wednesday to help with the police search.

Lucie Blackman
Lucie Blackman has not been seen since going out with a customer
Tokyo police have printed 30,000 posters appealing for information about Lucie, 21, a former British Airways air steward, who was working as a nightclub hostess.

She was reported missing by her friend Louise Phillips on 3 July after she failed to return from a night out with one of the club customers two days earlier.

"The posters will be distributed throughout Tokyo," said the chief duty officer at Tokyo's Azabu police station.

"It asks for information from anyone who has spotted her or otherwise has any clues to her whereabouts."

'Newly-risen religion'

Police are also interviewing customers from the nightclub district.

Mr Blackman is expected to make a public appeal at a press conference at the British Embassy in Tokyo on Thursday.


A lot of British girls, and girls from all over the world work in these bars

Sophie Blackman
Before flying to Tokyo, Mr Blackman said the family wanted Lucie to be found safe and well as soon as possible.

"We are trying not to let conjecture cloud our judgement and our optimism that Lucie will be found," he said.

"We are just on tenterhooks waiting for any news."

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said police in Tokyo were taking Lucie's disappearance "very seriously".

police poster
Police poster appeals for information about Lucie
Miss Phillips received a call on her mobile from an anonymous man who revealed personal details about her friend, including the fact that she had a 6,000 credit card debt.

The caller said she was "going on to a better life" to join a "newly-risen religion", as cults are known in Japan.

The caller added that the cult would pay her credit card debt.

Sophie Blackman, who shares a home with her sister in Sevenoaks, Kent, said Lucie meant the world to her.

'Streetwise'

She has described Lucie as "intelligent and streetwise".

"A lot of British girls and girls from all over the world work in these bars, it's club promotion," she said.

"If it was considered safe and she was willing she would take them out for dinner, she would bring them back to the club to do karaoke and have drinks.

"It was a very safe environment."

Maureen Phillips, 53, from Bromley, Kent, told the Daily Telegraph after speaking to her daughter Louise in Tokyo: "Lucie is very, very reliable with Louise. She would never ever let her down by not turning up as arranged.

"She would not have gone into a dangerous situation. She would have had to have been forced."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "Our consular staff are in regular touch with the police to pass on information about Lucie and press them for a vigorous investigation."

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See also:

11 Jul 00 | UK
Deprogramming the faithful
20 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Cult apologises for death gas attack
01 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's computers hit by cult fears
31 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Stricter surveillance for Japanese cult
26 Dec 98 | Asia-Pacific
Doomsday cult revival
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