She was a flight attendant and was 21 when she disappeared in Tokyo. After an arduous investigation and 223 days of unknown whereabouts, Blackman’s body was found dismembered and buried on a Japanese beach. The manager? A strange Japanese millionaire, who kidnapped and mistreated nearly 400 Western women. A story that marked the English-speaking community in the 2000s, and which is relaunched today through a Netflix documentary.
In 2000, Tokyo was in the public imagination as one of the safest cities in the world. More and more Aforinos were arriving in the Japanese metropolis to start a new life, captivated by the enormous richness of its culture.
It was the story of Lucy Blackman , a 21-year-old British flight attendant who decided to quit her job as a flight attendant to move to Japan and save some money. So she got a job as a hostess at the bar Casablanca, located in the Roppong district. A position which, in Japan, involves serving drinks and chatting with participants, without any involvement related to sexual commerce.
But things will quickly get complicated. On July 1 of that year, Blackman was last seen leaving the bar with a customer. The next day he did not return home. A few hours passed until Louise, the British friend with whom she shared a house, received a call from a man who gave her a strange message: apparently, Lucie had joined a satanic cult and was never coming back.
But this excuse was far from plausible. Soon, his companion warns his parents in England, who quickly mobilize to begin the search for a young woman who, with her case, would reveal the plot of a serial psychopath who drugged and raped foreign women for years without being discovered by authorities.
This unusual case is one that includes Missing: the Lucie Blackman affair, the documentary of Netflix which delves deep into the young woman’s kidnapping and subsequent murder, as well as her family’s struggle to achieve justice in a foreign country. Directed by Hyoe Yamamoto the feature film addresses all aspects of a story that shook the world of the new millennium.
According to interviews with Tim Blackman Lucie’s father who has been the visible face of his daughter’s quest for justice, to in-depth conversations with members of the police involved in the investigation and about the role of British journalists based in Japan.
The obstacles of a complex case to resolve
Blackman’s case was complex from the start. Being a foreigner, it was highly likely that the local police would not waste their efforts in finding an answer to the mystery behind her disappearance. It is precisely for this reason, Lucie’s father decided to contact the English and Japanese media to publicly exert media pressure and advance the investigation.
This is how he wallpapered the city with his daughter’s face, and even made an appointment with the British ambassador to ask him to seek the collaboration of the authorities in the search for the young woman. In any case, the panorama was not at all simple. Even though the investigation continues, things are getting complicated for the police.
Given the circumstances of her disappearance, most of the clues that could be obtained were in the areas near the bar where Lucie worked. Unfortunately, the spirit of collaboration of the other hosts was almost non-existent, since in most cases they were young people who worked without the corresponding visa. The fear of being arrested was latent and Blackman’s whereabouts were becoming increasingly unclear.
Added to all this is a series of false leads and speculation in the press which have hampered the process. One of the most striking was a purported note signed by the young woman, which read “leave me alone, I do what I want.”
While things definitely seemed to be stagnating, the sergeant Junichiro Kuku has decided to re-examine all reports associated with this matter. This is how he discovered the testimony of a hostess of a Roppongi Nightclub, where she indicated that after accepting a client’s invitation to go out, she woke up with body pains and suspicions of having been drugged.
This clue led them to discover a series of similar stories, all following the same pattern: young foreign women who practiced this profession and who had left their clubs with a middle-aged Japanese man . Soon the thesis became obvious. They were faced with a serial rapist, wealthy, obsessed with Western women and who had operated in the same way for years, sure that his victims would not report him.
The mystery of Joji Obara
After speaking with several of the girls, they found a young Australian woman who remembered writing down her attacker’s name and phone number in her notebook. And although the writing was crossed out, the police managed to decipher the data.
Eventually, the suspect adopted an identity: Yuji Honda, whose contact number ended with 3301 . Eventually, they were able to find a cell phone whose records included the Australian and, through the phone’s call tracking, they were able to determine that the contact was from Akasaka, one of the most expensive areas in Tokyo.
They followed the path and came to a luxurious building, and following the clues provided by the young women – each remembered a different car model – they managed to find an apartment with several imported cars in their name. Additionally, the subject owned several registered properties with sea views, including one recognized by one of his victims.
But one of the most relevant clues was given by the waitress of a restaurant near the building, who recognized Lucie as one of the women who came to dinner accompanied by a man.
Here’s how they managed to come up with a real name: Joji Obara, a lonely and strange real estate businessman who avoided showing his face . However, there was still no definite connection between this and Blackman’s disappearance. The police’s next move was to show his face to the victims, who immediately recognized him, and thus be able to arrest him for the crimes committed against them.
When detectives entered to search their apartments – hoping the young woman had been kidnapped and still alive – they couldn’t believe their eyes. Along with several sedatives, they found a series of VHS tapes containing recordings of his attacks on the girls he had captured. In total, nearly 400 different victims were counted.
They also found his life diary. A notebook in which he wrote that he was seeking “revenge on the world” and that he planned to “have slept with 500 people before the age of 50.” Additionally, he details his intentions to turn into an evil person and elaborates on his crimes.
Notably Obara He was a strange guy. He came from a wealthy family and deserved a large inheritance from his father. His history includes an arrest for dressing as a woman to enter the ladies’ room and record users.
Unfortunately, at this point there was still no trace of Lucie. Until the police discovered that Obara’s obsession with collecting objects led him to keep all of his purchase receipts. They thus began to search for documents dating from the day of the young woman’s disappearance to follow her movements. Hopes of finding her alive faded when they realized that among the receipts there was evidence of the purchase of various items to bury a body.
After searching the area around the beach apartment, police found his body dismembered and buried in a cave. The discovery took place on February 9, 2001, 223 days after his disappearance.
At first instance, the court found him guilty of certain rapes (of young women who dared to denounce themselves despite the fear of being deported), but not of the murder of Lucie. In any case, the case of the British woman succeeded in doing justice to another family: that of Carita Ridgway, a young woman died following an adverse reaction to the medications she was given Obara drugged her.
After a long process, Blackman’s family was able to obtain justice for their daughter, winning an appeal to make her killer’s life sentence irrevocable.
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I am David Jack and I have been working in the news industry for over 10 years. As an experienced journalist, I specialize in covering sports news with a focus on golf. My articles have been published by some of the most respected publications in the world including The New York Times and Sports Illustrated.