The man convicted of murdering Irish exchange student Nicola Furlong in a Tokyo hotel room has returned home to the United States.
Richard Hinds was released on November 19 after serving 10 years in prison. He was convicted in 2013 of strangling Co Wexford’s 21-year-old wife the year before.
Hinds was transferred to Japanese immigration authorities and deported to his family in Memphis, Tennessee, on a commercial flight.
The family of Ms Furlong from Curraghcloe, who called the initial verdict a “travesty”, said they were “devastated” by Hinds’ return to civilian life.
“I just gave in when I heard the news,” said Angela Furlong, Nicola’s mother. “I spent 10 years wondering how I would feel and now I know – it’s hard to deal with. He’s moving on and living his life and we just have to live ours.
Hinds’ family have remained silent since the 2013 verdict and have never contacted the Furlongs. His older brother Claude hung up when asked to comment on his release.
Hinds, a then 19-year-old traveling musician, admitted to strangling Ms Furlong in room 1427 of the Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo, saying she wordlessly indicated that she wanted rough sex. His sentence of “not less than five years and not more than 10 years”, with work, was the maximum allowed in Japan because he was a minor.
He served his entire sentence in Fuchu prison, in the western suburbs of Tokyo, after apparently showing no remorse for his crime. While there, Hinds was classed as a “category three prisoner”, meaning prison authorities believed he had only a “moderate expectation” of reintegration into society.
James Blackston, a dancer and choreographer who was convicted of sexually assaulting Ms Furlong’s friend on the taxi ride to Keio Plaza, was released in 2015 after serving three years. He has since returned to his life in Los Angeles and is said to have recently married.
Hinds gave discredited testimony in which he said he and Blackston were approached outside a train station by the two Irish women who wanted to “party”.
In their victim impact statement, the Furlongs called for the ‘severest sentence possible’ and for judges to recognize the ‘cruel nature’ of the crime and the fact that Mr Hinds had attempted to portray their daughter as a ‘ lustful drug addict”.
Handing down his sentence in 2013, Senior Judge Masaharu Ashizawa said Hinds had shown no remorse and that his statements had “disgraced” his victim. Judge Ashizawa said the Furlong family’s request for harsher sentences was “very understandable”.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin, during a visit to Tokyo in June, suggested that the Furlong family be consulted before Hinds’ release. “Justice is never served, in my view, when someone is murdered,” he said. “I’ve met parents in similar situations, and the grief, disruption and destruction of their lives has been a life sentence for them, far more so sometimes than the person who committed the act. My own feeling is that the authorities, whether in Japan or Ireland, have to take more account of the victims.
Angela Furlong said she had no interest in hearing from Hinds. “I think at this point we just have to put it behind us. I don’t want to know what he has to say. He told a whole bunch of lies in court and so why would I want to hear what he has to say.