Joji Obara (織原 城二 Obara Jōji), born Kim Sung Jong (Hangul: 김성종; hanja: 金聖鐘) is a Korean-Japanese serial rapist. Most notoriously, he was tried for raping and murdering Australian national Carita Ridgway in 1992 and British national Lucie Blackman in 2000.
Joji Obara was born in 1952 to poor Zainichi Korean parents in Osaka, Japan. During his youth, Obara's father worked his way from scrap collector to immensely wealthy owner of a string of pachinko parlors. Obara was educated at private schools, as received daily tutoring in a variety of subjects. At age 15, he enrolled in a prestigious prep school affiliated with Keio University, virtually guaranteeing his acceptance into the latter institution upon graduation. Two years later, upon his father's death, Obara inherited property in Osaka and Tokyo. After graduating from Keio University with degrees in politics and law, he became a naturalized Japanese citizen and legally changed his name. Obara invested heavily in real estate speculation, gaining assets estimated at as much as $38 million. After losing his fortune and his firm in the 1990s recession, he reportedly used his business as a money laundering front for the yakuza syndicate Sumiyoshi-kai.
Obara was a drug user who was reported to have an fixation with Western women. He developed a pattern of criminal behavior, beginning with unlawfully administering drugs to render his victims unconscious, and proceeding to abduct and rape them. Obara victimized women of both Japanese and Western backgrounds. He recorded his attacks on videotape, at least 4,000 of which were recovered by police, giving them cause to believe that he may have raped anywhere from 150 to 400 women. Police found extensive journals in which Obara made reference to "conquer play", a euphemism describing his sexual assaults on women who he wrote were "only good for sex" and on whom he sought "revenge on the world" drugging them with chloroform.
Lucie Blackman (September 1, 1978 – July 1, 2000) was an English woman from Sevenoaks, Kent who worked as a hostess in Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo. Common in East Asian nations, "hostess" in this sense describes young women at bars who are paid to engage in conversation with men, light their cigarettes, sing karaoke — with a strict policy against men touching the hostesses or making sexual propositions. Blackman had previously worked as a flight attendant for British Airways and had come to Japan to see the world and earn money to pay off her debts. At the time of her disappearance, she had been working as a hostess at Casablanca, a night club in Roppongi, later called Greengrass. She was 21 years old at the time of her death.
Blackman's mysterious death, as well as Obara's trial, received high press coverage in Japan and internationally, especially in the British media. As a result of the publicity surrounding the case, three foreign women came forward to describe waking up, sore and sick, in Obara’s bed, with no memory of the night before. (See drug-facilitated sexual assault.) Several of them, it turned out, had reported him to the Roppongi police but had been ignored.
On July 1, Blackman went on a douhan (a paid date) with a customer from Casablanca. Other than a few calls to a friend during the date, no one heard from her again. Blackman's family, wanting to find her, flew to Tokyo and started a high-profile direct media campaign, including approaching British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who was visiting Tokyo at that time. Newspapers started publicising Blackman's disappearance on July 13, when UK Prime Minister Tony Blair made mention of the case during an official visit to Japan, where he met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori. An information hotline was staffed by British expats, and an anonymous businessman funded a reward of £100,000.
On February 9, 2001, Blackman's dismembered body was found, buried in a shallow grave under a bathtub in a seaside cave at Miura, Kanagawa Prefecture, about 50 km south of Tokyo, just a few hundred metres from Obara's apartment. The body had been cut into eight pieces. Blackman's head had been shaved and encased in concrete. The body was too decomposed to discover cause of death.
Blackman's father Tim accepted £450,000 in mimaikin (condolence money) from a friend of Obara's. Her other family members were opposed to accepting the money. A trust promoting personal safety was established in Blackman's name. Her story was the subject of the book People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry.
In October 2000, Obara was arrested and charged with drugging, raping, and killing Blackman and another hostess, 21-year-old Australian model Carita Ridgway, who was drugged by Obara and died of a chloroform overdose on February 29, 1992. Obara was also charged with raping six other women. According to the indictment, he made Blackman a drink containing a drug before raping her at a condominium in Zushi, subsequently killing her. Obara has maintained his innocence, claiming the drugs that caused her to die were self-administered.
Trial and verdict
On April 24, 2007, Obara was jailed for life on multiple rape charges and one manslaughter, but he was acquitted of Blackman's rape and murder.
Evidence supporting his guilt of rape included the approximately 400 videos he took, which showed him engaged in date rape activities. For the charge of manslaughter of Carita Ridgway, the prosecutor produced an autopsy report showing traces of chloroform in Ridgway's liver and a paper trail showing that the accused accompanied Ridgway to the hospital before she died. In Blackman's case, however, the prosecutor could not produce any forensic evidence linking the accused to her death. Even her cause of death could not be determined.
The judge stated that in deciding on the sentence he did not attach much importance to Obara’s payment of “consolation money” to a number of his victims.
The Japanese judicial system has received some criticism for its handling of the case. It is believed that the police did not take this missing person case seriously "because Lucie was working illegally in a job from which women often flee without notice". As a result, the discovery of the body came too late to determine the cause of the death. The verdict by a panel of three judges cited the lack of forensic evidence as a reason for acquittal. Some foreign media from common law countries also criticised the police for having leaked information in the case to the press that could cause a mistrial. However, as the Japanese civil law system did not, at that time, use juries, this could not be grounds for a mistrial.
Former prosecutor Takeshi Tsuchimoto, now a professor of criminal procedure law at Hakuoh University Law School, criticised the decision to acquit Obara for the murder of Lucie Blackman by pointing to the conviction of Masumi Hayashi due to circumstantial evidence.
The public prosecutor appealed the Blackman-related verdicts, as crucial forensic evidence had not been heard at the original trial, and on March 25, 2008, an appeal trial commenced in the Tokyo High Court. Tokyo's High Court found Obara guilty on the counts of abduction, dismemberment and disposal of Blackman's body on December 16, 2008.
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Born Kim Sung Jong in 1952 to poor Korean parents in Osaka,...
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