Page last updated at 10:18 GMT, Friday, 24 October 2008 11:18 UK

Hawker family's plea over suspect

Lisa Hawker on reports the main suspect in her sister's death has killed himself

The family of a British teacher murdered in Japan have urged police not to scale down their inquiry, following reports the main suspect may be dead.

Lindsay Ann Hawker, 22, from Brandon, near Coventry, was found buried in a bath of sand on an apartment balcony in Toyko in March 2007.

Her family said "rumours" that Tatsuya Ichihashi had killed himself could mean the number of case officers being cut.

The Times newspaper reported that some officers in Tokyo thought he was dead.

Miss Hawker's parents Bill and Julia and sister Lisa have fought a long battle to find her suspected killer and have appealed in Japan for the public's help.

'No evidence'

Family handout photo of Lindsay Ann Hawker
Lindsay Ann Hawker was teaching English in Japan

They said they had been told on a number of occasions by police that Ichihashi, in whose flat Ms Hawker's body was found, was dead.

But a statement issued through the family's representatives said: "At this present time there is no evidence to show that this has happened and we feel that this would be a very easy escape for him.

"It is two years today since Lindsay left home to go to teach in Japan and more than 18 months on we still have no justice."

The family said they had been "encouraged by the number of sightings" of the suspected killer and there were still more than 100 police officers working on the case.

"Rumours like this could lead to the number of officers on the case being reduced and this is not what we want to happen," the statement added.

Tatsuya Ichihashi
Tatsuya Ichihashi is the prime suspect in the case

The family urged anyone who saw Ichihashi to contact police or the family's appeal website.

A police source has reportedly said that officers believed Ichihashi would have been caught by now if he was still alive and that "surely" the police investigation would be reduced.

"Japan has so many mountains, and if he has gone into a remote woodland and died there, they might never find him," the source said.

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