Edel O’Connell, Independent, June 16, 2012
A 19-year-old American Christian musician has admitted strangling Wexford student Nicola Furlong in Tokyo last month — but insisted that he didn’t mean to kill her.
The keyboard player, who graduated from High School just last year, was arrested on suspicion of murdering the 21-year-old in a hotel room on May 24.
As he is still recognised as a minor by Japanese law, his name has not been officially released.
Police suspect that he killed Ms Furlong after she refused his sexual advances, according to Japanese news agencies.
He confessed to pressing his victim’s neck with his hands but said he did not mean to kill her, it has been reported.
The man was allegedly captured on CCTV wheeling Ms Furlong to his room at the Keio Plaza Hotel in the city’s Shinjuku district at around 1am.
In the footage, Ms Furlong appears to be unconscious in the wheelchair. Police believe that her drink may have been spiked.
Toxicology results are expected in about a week’s time.
The footage also appears to confirm that nobody else entered the room before hotel staff discovered her body in the early hours of the morning.
A second man, a dancer from Los Angeles, is no longer a suspect in her death but is being held in custody in relation to an assault charge regarding the alleged molestation of Nicola’s friend.
Hotel staff discovered Nicola’s body in the early hours of the morning, after a guest had complained about a loud noise from one of the rooms.
A hotel employee found Ms Furlong lying near the bed and the man was reportedly standing nearby. She was rushed to hospital but pronounced dead.
Japanese media have reported that she had been sexually assaulted and strangled.
An established Christian musician in the Memphis area, the man had graduated from Central High School, Memphis last year and moved to Japan in April to pursue his music career.
He had joined the world tour of a Japanese-American hip-hop artist called AI, along with his older brother.
On the night of her death, Nicola Furlong had attended a Nicki Minaj concert with her friend, another Irish girl who was also studying in Japan.
The students then took a taxi with the two American men to the five-star hotel where the men were staying.
Ms Furlong, a business and language student at Dublin City University, had been living in the city of Takasaki, around 100km north of Tokyo. She was on a one-year exchange programme and was due to return to Ireland this summer.
The family has been told that the formal court process is likely to get under way next month and that a trial date will be set down for about six months after that.
Nicola’s parents said last night that they were hopeful that justice would be done but added that this would not bring their daughter back.
Nicola’s sister Andrea spoke of the closeness between her and her sister, whom she described as her “best friend”.
She said: “We were glued at the hip, we were so close, it is unbelievable that she is gone.
“It doesn’t seem real to me. I can say it and talk about it but it is just not real and won’t be until the trial.”