Furlong family travels to Nicola's hotel-death trial

The heartbroken family of murdered Irish exchange student Nicola Furlong is making a tense trip to Japan for the trial of the man accused of the killing.

Nicola, 21, was found strangled in an upmarket hotel in central Tokyo last May after a night out with a friend attending a concert.

The death sent shockwaves through her home village of Curracloe, in Co Wexford, and further afield.

Richard Hinds, a 19-year-old musician from Memphis, Tennessee in the US, has admitted strangling Ms Furlong but denies killing her intentionally. He remains in custody in Tokyo and his trial begins on Monday.

Ms Furlong’s parents Andrew and Angie and her sister Andrea are all making the journey to Japan for the case which is expected to last for more than a week.

Pat Furlong, the dead woman’s uncle, said the three – who are being accompanied by some friends – do not know what to expect.

“Their mood is very poor,” he said. “This is taking a lot out of them. They don’t know what to expect. They just want to see some justice done.”

Mr Furlong said his brother’s family would stay in Tokyo for three weeks, to await the outcome of the trial which is expected later in the month.

“They just want to get on with it now,” he added. “They want to get over there and get it over with and get back. It will be an anxious three weeks for them. It is a lot of pressure for them.”

Ms Furlong, a Dublin City University student, had been studying as part of an exchange programme at Takasaki City University of Economics, around 100 km north of Tokyo.

On the day of her death she had travelled by train to Tokyo with an Irish friend to see a concert by US rapper Nicki Minaj.

The pair met Hinds and James Blackston, a 23-year-old professional dancer from Los Angeles after the gig and went to a bar. Blackston has denied sexually assaulting Ms Furlong’s unidentified friend – referred to as Victim A in a separate trial.

She told that case she can not remember anything after taking a drink provided by one of the men on the night of the killing.

CCTV footage has captured the four in a taxi travelling to the Keio Plaza Hotel later that evening, while the two women are apparently unconscious.

It is alleged Blackston groped Victim A and used explicit sexual language during the journey. The two men then allegedly borrowed wheelchairs at the hotel to transport the girls to their rooms.

Police were called to the hotel when a loud noise was heard from Hinds’ room in the early hours of the morning. Ms Furlong was found unconscious at the scene and died later in hospital.

The verdict in the case of Blackston, who is not accused of any part in Ms Furlong’s killing, is due on March 13.

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