The American accused of murdering Irish student Nicola Furlong has told her parents he firmly believes he did not kill their daughter – as his colleague was sentenced to three years jail for a sex assault on her best friend.

Dancer Richard Hinds broke down in a Tokyo court as he addressed Nicola’s parents.

He made the comments after his friend James Blackston, accused of the sexual assault of an Irish woman who was with Furlong on the night she died last May, was sentenced to three years with labour at Tokyo District Court.

Blackston’s sentence relates to an attack on Furlong’s friend and another attack on a woman in another part of Japan in April last year.

The court deducted 150 days from the sentence for the time the 23-year-old American has already served.

Teenager Hinds is being tried as a minor and faces a maximum of 10 years in jail despite calls for the death penalty from members of Nicola’s family.

Tennessee born Hinds told the court that the death of Nicola in a Tokyo hotel last year had given him ‘a painful thorn’.

Irish state broadcaster RTE reports that after the prosecution and defence lawyers had delivered their closing arguments, the accused was asked if he wanted to say anything to the court.

Hinds then broke down for the first time during the trial as he addressed Nicola’s heartbroken parents.
He said: “I believe that nothing good, bad or ugly will go through me without going through God first.”

He added that the death given him ‘a thorn’. He said: “It has given the Furlongs a thorn, as well as the defence and prosecution lawyers.

“When I look around the court, I see a room full of humans, not gods.”

Hinds then told the judges: “I am not a professional strangler, a murderer or a pervert but I do feel deep remorse for the family of Ms Furlong.”

Speaking directly to the family, he said: “I firmly believe I did not kill your daughter.” He also told them that she did not suffer.

The prosecution has called for a sentence of ten years, which is the maximum a minor under 20 can receive in Japan. Sentence will be delivered next Tuesday.