Page last updated at 16:25 GMT, Monday, 24 March 2008

Private grief, public quest

By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

Bill and Julia Hawker
The appeal has thrust the family's private grief into the public eye
The family of murdered Lindsay Hawker have braved the spotlight to make an emotional appeal for information to the Japanese public.

A steady drizzle greeted the Hawker family as their plane taxied towards the gate at Tokyo's Narita airport.

Bill Hawker and his wife Julia had brought their two daughters, Louise and Lisa, to Japan this time, a year after they first learned that Lindsay was missing.

Then, the discovery of the body of the 22-year-old teacher last March - who had been buried in a bathtub - thrust this family into the spotlight just as they started to grieve.

It was uncomfortable. The Hawkers are very private.

It was obvious how difficult they found it when they were subjected to the scrutiny of the media, not just from Britain, but from a country half a world away from their life in Brandon near Coventry.

Speaking the language

Now, a year later they have returned to Japan where they were met at the airport by a large contingent of Japanese photo-journalists and television crews.

Clearly they are now more used to the attention, and more determined to use it for their own ends.

Striding down the moving walkway into the terminal building, Bill Hawker told the reporters the family had come to "raise the profile of the case, to co-operate with the Japanese police, and to get justice for Lindsay".

Lisa Hawker
You have taken away my best friend and broken our hearts. I implore you, please atone for your crime
Lisa Hawker
Lindsay's sister

A few hours later all four of them were facing the press again in a huge room at the Japanese National Press Club.

Bill Hawker started with a few words of Japanese. Later he told me he had been practising for a fortnight.

"Please help me find this man," he said, holding up a large poster of the man police believe killed his daughter, Tatsuya Ichihashi.

A year ago Bill Hawker broke down in tears as he pleaded with the Japanese people to help catch Ichihashi, the only suspect in the case.

At the time police assured him it would only be a matter of days before the man, who had been caught on CCTV in a cafe with the British teacher, was picked up.

That was a year ago. Twelve months on with quiet dignity he asked the press to help him get his message out to the people of this country.

Family letter

Lisa Hawker, Lindsay's sister had been learning Japanese too, so that she could make a direct appeal to Ichihashi in his own language.

"You have taken one life and destroyed many more," she said looking directly at the cameras from the Japanese TV networks.

Bill Hawker with a picture of his daughter Lindsay
Such a beautiful daughter. Just look at her. It was such a waste
Bill Hawker
Lindsay's father

"You have taken away my best friend and broken our hearts. I implore you, please atone for your crime."

After that, the family spent the afternoon answering reporters questions in one-to-one interviews for the Japanese reporters. There was a lot of interest in a letter they had received a few months ago from Tatsuya Ichihashi's parents.

They wrote to the Hawkers to say they were sorry to hear of Lindsay's death, and described their son's actions as "regrettable".

"What a choice of word!" Bill Hawker said, clearly upset at what he saw as a slur on the family and their loss.

The Hawkers readily admit it has been hard learning to understand the different culture here, both in their dealings with the police and the media.

They have been careful not to criticise the police during this visit, praising them for their "very hard" work.

They are frustrated that officers allowed Ichihashi to escape when they first came looking for Lindsay at his flat, but they accept what the police are telling them, that they will not rest until the investigation is complete.

Bar vigil

Sitting with a cup of tea at the end of a long day of interviews, the Hawkers spoke of their determination to see this through too.

"We're doing this for Lindsay," her mother Julia said. "She would have done the same for us."

The family plans to help the police distribute leaflets on Tuesday, and will hold a candle-lit vigil later at a bar in which Lindsay used to drink.

"We will keep coming back," Bill Hawker said, "If that's what it takes to catch this man."

On his lap he's clutching a large laminated photograph of his murdered daughter, an image he's been showing to the cameras in interview after interview, to try to get through to the Japanese people what he has lost.

"She was beautiful, wasn't she?" he asks as he gets up to leave. "Such a beautiful daughter. Just look at her. It was such a waste."

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SEE ALSO
Hawker murder family renew appeal
24 Mar 08 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Hawker murder family fly to Japan
23 Mar 08 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Airport appeal for killed teacher
25 Sep 07 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Murdered daughter 'was drugged'
22 Aug 07 |  Coventry/Warwickshire

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