‘Gentleman’ accused ‘felt sorry’ for victim’s family

The man accused of strangling Nicola Furlong told prosecutors that he was a “gentleman” who “felt sorry” for the family of the DCU student.

American Richard Hinds said that he would “humbly accept it” should it transpire he had “misjudged” the amount of pressure he had placed on Ms Furlong’s neck — an act that medical experts say directly resulted in her death.

Asked by the prosecution to explain why he felt sorry despite his belief that he hadn’t killed Ms Furlong, the defendant said he felt “sorry that I was not more aware of her condition” when Ms Furlong fell unconscious in his hotel room in Tokyo on May 24, 2012.

“I feel sorry for her family because they lost their daughter,” he added.

Asked why he thought she had died, Mr Hinds said he had “no explanation”.

“Although I believe that I did not kill her and know for a fact that I had no intent to harm [her], I still feel a deep remorse for her family,” he said.

Ms Furlong’s mother, Angela, later described his words as “meaningless talk”.

This echoed a phrase used by Mr Hinds to refer to the sexually explicit conversation he had shared with his friend James Blackston in a taxi as the two men transported an unconscious Ms Furlong and her unnamed friend to the Keio Plaza hotel where they were staying.

Part of the conversation suggested the two men were intent on sexually assaulting the women at their hotel. Mr Hinds can be heard stating “we can fuck ’em.”

Asked by the prosecution to explain a section of the conversation where he says “I can’t wait to get ATM”, Mr Hinds said he had merely told Mr Blackston he was going to go straight away to an automatic telling machine to pay him back for treating him all night.

ATM is also a slang expression meaning sodomy followed by oral sex.

Yesterday, Mr Hinds also was asked about “hundun”, another word used between the men. The defendant explained it meant “$100”.

In urban slang, Hundun also can refer to a particular kind of woman.

In the video, which was not shown to the press or members of the public, Mr Blackston apparently can be seen assaulting Ms Furlong’s friend, one of two separate charges of assault for which he is standing trial.

During Mr Blackston’s trial, the verdict of which is due today, the court was told the men had offered the women a separate room and that neither men was interested in them sexually.

Mr Hinds denied a prosecution question that the men had each taken one of the women to their rooms in order to have sex, saying they had done so “just so [the women] could rest.”

Mr Hinds also was asked why if he had had sex with Ms Furlong that the woman remained dressed throughout and why he had not touched her breasts or genitals. He replied it was because “I am a gentleman”.

Asked if a gentleman “puts pressure on” a woman’s neck, he replied: “That doesn’t have anything to do with being a gentleman.”

One of the key issues in the trial has been establishing intent, with the doctor who performed the autopsy telling the court last week that Ms Furlong had been strangled by a soft strap-like object.

Mr Hinds had claimed he had not used any such object and had only applied “light pressure” to Ms Furlong’s neck with one hand.

Quizzed by the prosecution as to exactly how he had applied that pressure Mr Hinds said he had tried to quieten a “moaning” Ms Furlong with his right hand while putting his left hand on her neck because it appeared to “calm her”.

“At that time I had both hands on her neck,” he said.

Asked why he was suddenly claiming he had used two hands and not one the defendant said: “I clearly remember bringing up the topic of both hands. Maybe I was not heard correctly.”

The court also heard impact statements yesterday from both Mrs Furlong and Nicola’s sister, Andrea.

Two of the lay judges and one of the professional judges appeared to cry when the statements were read.

Mother’s Anguish

‘Did she scream for her mammy and her daddy?’

My name is Angela Furlong — I am Nicola’s mother.

“I remember so well the day our Nicola came into the world — a beautiful baby girl. The joy of holding her and loving her. As she grew up into a beautiful child I wondered what life had in store for her, what dreams would be fulfilled for Nicola.

“As she blossomed into a beautiful young woman, she embraced life with a passion. During her teenage years she never gave us any reason to be concerned, always displaying a happy, loving and giving nature. She surrounded herself with happy, honest, genuine, fun-loving friends and she had a particularly special relationship with her younger sisters, Andrea and Hannah.

“In fact, Nicola and Andrea were more like close friends than sisters. Nicola was a vibrant girl and loved life, always such a positive girl; she planned ahead and looked forward to her future.

“Always kind, generous, beautiful: a real lady, just so perfect. She was full of life and lived every day with a smile on her face.

“Nicola flourished at school and made us all so proud of all her achieve- ments. When Nicola told us that she was planning to go to Japan on a student exchange programme, we supported and encouraged her.

“While planning for the trip, I also learned a lot about Japan, which helped ease my own personal worries about Nicola going to a foreign country... I learned that Japan is one of the safest countries in the world and Tokyo one of the least likely places to be mugged or assaulted. While away, Nicola kept in constant contact with me. While missing home desperately, she expressed her own bravery at having taken up the challenge of living and studying in Japan.

“On May 22, 2012 — Nicola’s last contact with me — she texted to say “all ready for the concert mam, am so excited. 10 weeks and I will be back in Ireland”. I have that text still on my phone.

“The nightmare of all nightmares was about to unfold. While every mother of a young person harbours the thought that they might meet with an accident, one never thinks of them meeting with the ultimate crime of murder.

“The loss of a child in any circumstance is utterly tragic, but to lose my baby and learning of her final hour on this Earth, so many thoughts run through my head.

“Did she know she was going to die? Did she plead for mercy? Did she scream out my name, was she looking for her mammy and daddy to help her? These are the thoughts I will always carry with me.

“Learning of Nicola’s death on that Thursday morning, and having to tell Hannah: these words will be the hardest I will ever say to you — ‘Nicola is dead’.

“Not only did Nicola’s life end that day but mine also. So many lives have been affected by this horrendous tragedy.

“The period between then and now has been a blanket of grief. Although nobody can see it. I walk around surrounded by a heavy cloak of darkness. I will never be the strong, independent woman I was, as I now need antidepressants and sleeping pills to get through 24 hours, I have never relied on such medication in my life.

“Having always worked full-time, I now struggle to do my job on a part- time basis, resulting in financial difficulty. I am receiving regular homicide counselling.

“The invasion my baby endured in the last moments of her short life has left me feeling repulsed by men.

“I make my daily visit to Nicola’s graveside — often twice a day — as this is all I feel I can do for her now that she is sleeping with the angels.

“I am repulsed to hear the defence speak of my baby who is such an honest Catholic young woman, in the way they have been over the past week. We are here to ensure that Nicola’s good name is preserved. The outcome of this trial will never ease all our pain.

“I have no wish to further spread the circle of damage that began on May 24 last year, and certainly no wish to take a life for a life. But given that the defendant has refused to take responsibility for what he did and has instead tried to blacken our daughter’s name with lies, I feel the punishment should at least begin to reflect the pain he has caused us and all the people who loved Nicola. And that pain that he continues to cause.

“I thank you judges for giving me the opportunity to express my feelings and those of my family. Nicola we are your voice.”

Nicola Furlong: ‘She could have changed the world.’

Sister’s Pain

‘Why should he get to go on living when Nicola’s life is over?’

My name is Andrea Furlong — Nicola is my sister and best friend.

“The day she died the light went out of my life. I feel like I am not living since the 24th of May, 2012.

“Each day comes and goes with no purpose or meaning for me. I don’t believe in anything any more. I wish it could have been me whose heart stopped beating and she could have lived on. She could have changed the world and that’s the awful thing about it — what could have been. I was blessed to have Nic as my sister and best friend.

“There are no words in the dictionary to describe my love for Nicola... Nicola was not my one in a million; she was and always will be my one in this world...

“I have to learn how to be on my own without her to turn to in life’s obstacles. I wish I could be with her now but I have to be strong for my family, I know I am the only string holding my family together. It is a lot of pressure for me. I don’t think I will ever get over the fact I can never feel her warm hugs and to see her beaming smile that she was never without.

“Nicola as a person was so beautiful inside and out. She loved everyone in her life. I believe that if everyone lived life like Nicola did we would have no regrets. For only 21 years of life she had so many amazing memories. Pictures and memories are all we have left.

“It’s so hard to know that she dies at the hands of someone else. It’s his fault she’s gone, his fault my life has no meaning. I will never be able to accept that someone ended her life. He was the last person to see her breathing and with life in her body. The last to see her beautiful eyes open. He took away our chance to say goodbye, to tell her we love her.

“My beautiful rosebud that never got a chance to bloom, my beautiful angel should have been home six months now, and we should have been fulfilling our plans and dreams.

“Instead we are at her murder trial... I know my sister better than anyone and I know that she would not have agreed to go back to a stranger’s hotel room, conscious. I spent my life bonding together and learning together. I know how careful she was with alcohol and strangers. Before a night out she would eat a proper meal for soakage and thoroughly measured alcohol. She knew her limit — if she was feeling drunk she would completely stop drinking alcohol and start drinking water. In all the years of drinking with Nicola I have never seen her in a condition she was on the 23rd of May. Nicola was so excited for the night in question to get dressed up and see Nicki Minaj.

“It breaks my heart that someone could dishonour her name the way the defence are doing.

“It also broke my heart seeing my father’s anger and frustration at the false accusations that my sister was an alcoholic, a drug user and dressed inappropriately to get male attention. When, in reality, what girl doesn’t like to dress up and have fun? Girls will be girls. If Nicola had been taking drugs behind our back, we would have noticed a change in her appearance and personality. We knew Nicola only had eyes for one man and that was her boyfriend, Danny. She had no interest in any other man. I think we knew my sister better than any defence team.

“How could someone harm such a fragile young woman? As for the defendant’s punishment I have so much hatred and anger towards this man. I know myself that the death penalty is only given for multiple murders but I want him to suffer. Why should he get to go on living when Nicola’s life is over? He took someone from us and ruined all our lives — so a life for a life. Why should he get to go home to his family when we can never see Nicola again?

“Nicola is an inspiration to me and I aspire to love life just as much as she did.

“Nicola will always be my other half. She made my heart whole. No one will ever be able to replace the piece of my heart Nicola took to heaven with her.

“My jigsaw will never be complete because Nicola holds the other piece...

“I will always remember you as the bubbly blonde who could make an entire room go silent.

“This is not goodbye, it’s ‘see you later’.”


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