Tatsuya Ichihashi, 29, who is the prime suspect in the murder of British language teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker, 22, in Ichikawa City, Chiba Prefecture in March of 2007, has reportedly been seen in an area of Kabukicho popular with the gay community.
Hawker’s family visited Japan in March to appeal for public help in locating Ichihashi, but there has been no progress in the case. The most common theories have been that he is being hidden by the yakuza or that he is already dead.
However, undercover police officers from the Chiba prefectural police went to the Shinjuku 2-chome area of Kabukicho after a gay man reported that he had seen a guy resembling Ichihashi in gay bars.
The man told police that he met Ichihashi in a motel. “I slept with him twice. I first met him at midnight on Feb 28 at a motel where many gay people gather to meet each other. After taking a shower, I went to a room where three guys were sleeping, one of whom was him.”
The witness describes the guy he met as “tall with long arms and legs, and long, narrow eyes. Since he was my type, I approached him and we got it off straight away.” The witness says he met him again when he visited the same motel in the early hours of March 2. “It was the same guy. But what was strange was that he didn’t let me see his face fully, keeping the room dark. I sensed he had some secret. It didn’t click that he might have been Ichihashi until later.”
When the witness checked out of the motel at 8 a.m. on March 2, he bumped into a friend who told him that the guy resembled Ichihashi. “Then I remembered Ichihashi’s wanted poster and that’s when it clicked. My friend suggested we take photos of him and follow him, but he disappeared. I think he might have overheard our conversation.”
The witness said he didn’t report his encounter to police sooner because he wasn’t 100% sure the guy was really Ichihashi. But finally, on March 14, he called the Gyotoku police station in Chiba which is in charge of the investigation. On April 8, he also gave police the guy’s underwear, which he had kept, for DNA testing, but since he had washed the underwear, no DNA was detected.
A spokesperson for the Chiba prefectural police declined to comment on the man’s story, other than to say the police were checking all leads.
“Motels where gay people gather are good for some criminals who want to hide themselves for a short term because a lot of guests hate to tell police they are gay, which makes it difficult to disclose what is going on there,” said Kenichi Sawa, editor of a gay magazine. “However, in general, the majority of gay people are good citizens and willing to cooperate with police. So those motels cannot be permanent places for criminals to hide out.”
One police source did admit that they have received reports on sightings of Ichihashi in Shinjuku 2-chome before. But he says, “Many Chiba police officers are not familiar with the area, so it is actually very difficult to search for him there or get cooperation from locals.”
So was it really Ichihashi? “Of course, I’m not 100% sure,” said the witness. “But since I work in the hospitality industry, I’m good at recognizing faces. In addition, when I saw Ichihashi’s wanted poster for the first time, I felt he was my type. Especially, his eyes were very impressive. So my gut feeling tells me the guy was absolutely Ichihashi.” (Translated by Taro Fujimoto)