The man who performed ‘plastic surgery’ on his own face to evade arrest

The man who performed ‘plastic surgery’ on his own face to evade arrest
via The Telegraph, Euronews / YouTube
Bryan Ke
March 7, 2024
Warning: This article contains a story of rape and murder.
In the late 2000s, fear struck Japan as news of a British teacher being raped and murdered emerged just outside Tokyo. The culprit: a 28-year-old man who altered his own facial features to escape authorities.
What he did: Tatsuya Ichihashi, now 45, met the victim, Lindsay Hawker, 22, at a cafe on March 24, 2007, for an English lesson. He lured her to his apartment in Ichikawa by claiming that he had no money and promising to pay her there. Two days later, police found the victim’s body bound, bruised and buried in a bathtub filled with sand on his balcony.
How he transformed himself: Ichihashi, who fled his home barefoot, remained on the lam for two and a half years, taking various measures to conceal his identity. The most infamous of them were his self-inflicted cosmetic “surgeries,” in which he scissored his bottom lip, carved out two of his cheek moles and gave himself a nose job using only a thread and needle.

  • Aside from going under his own knife, Ichihashi used an alias to secure employment at a construction company in Osaka and used his earnings for additional cosmetic procedures. His elusiveness forced the National Police Agency to offer up to a 10-million-yen (approximately $67,600 today) reward for information that led to his arrest.
  • Ichihashi detailed the extreme measures he took to avoid capture in his 2011 book “Until I Was Arrested.” This became the source material for the 2013 movie “I am Ichihashi: Journal of a Murderer.”
How he was arrested: A clinic Ichihashi had visited in Nagoya sent an image of him to the police. On Nov. 10, 2009, they received a tip about someone resembling him at a ferry terminal in Osaka. Ichihashi was eventually arrested at the location while waiting for a ride to Okinawa.

What he said: Following his arrest, Ichihashi, the son of a doctor and a dentist, apologized to Hawker’s family in a 2010 letter, according to The Times UK. In it, he described himself as evil, saying he will never forget his actions and that he will “carry my cross until the moment of my death.” However, the Hawkers reportedly viewed this as an attempt to gain leniency for his upcoming trial.
Facing justice: Ichihashi was brought to trial at the Chiba District Court near Tokyo in July 2011, where he admitted to raping Hawker and accidentally suffocating her. He was handed a sentence of life imprisonment instead of the death penalty, which is typically reserved for serial killers.
  • Presiding Judge Masaya Hotta noted that Ichihashi had no prior criminal record and suggested that he might still be rehabilitated. Ichihashi’s lawyers subsequently appealed to reduce his sentence, but the Tokyo High Court rejected it in April 2012.
How he’s doing: Speaking to the Daily Shincho in July 2023, Hiroshi Yamauchi (pseudonym), an ex-inmate at Nagano Prison, where Ichihashi is being detained, said he heard of the latter from another inmate. Ichihashi was reportedly described as “aloof,” engaging only those he felt comfortable with, and an athletic person who can “outrun everyone else” in relay races.
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