Japan suspect in Briton's murder stays silent: police

TOKYO, Nov 11, 2009 (AFP) - Japan's only suspect in the killing of a British woman who was arrested after more than two years on the run has stayed silent during initial questioning, police said Wednesday.

Tatsuya Ichihashi, 30, who underwent plastic surgery during his life as a fugitive, was arrested Tuesday in connection with the death of 22-year-old British teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker in early 2007.

"We started a full-fledged interrogation of the suspect today," said a spokesman for the Gyotoku Police Department in Chiba prefecture near Tokyo, where the investigation headquarters have been set up.

"The suspect has remained silent about the case after he initially told us he has nothing to say," the spokesman told AFP.

Hawker's body was found in a sand-filled bathtub on the balcony of Ichihashi's apartment in Chiba in March 2007.

He later underwent plastic surgery to his eyelids and nose, had facial moles removed and grew a beard, apparently hoping to evade detection as wanted posters were displayed at Japanese police and railway stations.

Ichihashi was carrying a toy gun when he was caught at an Osaka ferry terminal in western Japan on Tuesday where he was trying to catch a ship to southern Okinawa island.

Police said he would be questioned for up to 20 days before prosecutors decide on an indictment. He was arrested on a charge of abandoning a body rather than the more serious crime of murder.

In Japan, which this year introduced a jury system, murder can be punished with the death penalty, although capital punishment, carried out by hanging, is usually reserved for cases of multiple homicide.

Source: AFP

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