Father of ‘murdered’ British Airways flight attendant Lucie Blackman tells of the ‘blind panic’ of being told she was missing as he recalls going head-to-head with Japanese police following her disappearance in 2000

The father of British Airways flight attendant Lucie Blackman, who was killed in Tokyo after she went missing in 2000 at the age of 21 has spoken of the ‘sheer blind panic’ he felt when he learnt she had vanished. 

Tim Blackman, who travelled out to Japan to search for his 21-year-old daughter when she vanished more than two decades ago, has recalled his agony as he waited for answers as to Lucie’s whereabouts in a Netflix documentary exploring her disappearance and murder.

Lucie, from Kent, vanished from the Japanese capital on 1st July 2000 while she was living and working there for British Airways. Despite an investigation involving 100 officers from Tokyo Metropolitan Police, her dismembered body was not discovered until February 2001, with an arrest finally made two months later.

Joji Obara, a millionaire property developer from Tokyo, was charged in 2002 with drugging, raping and killing the young woman. However, he could not be convicted of murder as Lucie’s body was so badly decomposed.

He was cleared of manslaughter due to a lack of evidence but later found guilty of her abduction, dismemberment and the disposing of her body in 2008 at the Tokyo High Court after the Blackman family appealed. To this day, Lucie’s cause of death is still unknown.

Speaking in Missing: The Lucie Blackman Case, which landed on Netflix today, Tim Blackman has recalled the moment he realised his daughter had vanished.

‘I was immediately thinking, well, there must be some rational explanation, some reason why she’s not been able to get in touch,’ he said.

‘There were three or four more calls and I knew that something had gone wrong. 

‘That feeling of complete blind panic just crashes in on you.’

After being told his daughter had vanished, Tim jumped straight on a plane to Tokyo where he hoped to help the police with their investigation and bring Lucie home.

However as the documentary explores, he found himself at odds with the Japanese authorities as he did his best to keep Lucie’s case in the spotlight. 

Tim Blackman, whose daughter Lucie was murdered by a Japanese millionaire property developer after she went missing in 2000, has spoken of the ‘blind panic’ he felt when he first learnt she had vanished

Lucie Blackman had moved to the Japanese capital to work for British Airways, but quit her job and began working as a hostess in a swanky nightclub

Lucie Blackman had moved to the Japanese capital to work for British Airways, but quit her job and began working as a hostess in a swanky nightclub

Joji Obara, a millionaire Japanese property developer living in a wealthy area of Tokyo, is serving a life sentence for abducting Lucie and dismembering her body

Joji Obara, a millionaire Japanese property developer living in a wealthy area of Tokyo, is serving a life sentence for abducting Lucie and dismembering her body

He recalls speaking on camera for the first time in his life and having no experience of appearing on television, but added he put his nerves aside to do what was necessary to find Lucie.

‘You just get on with it because you’re trying to find your child,’ he says.

The documentary explores how the Tokyo Metropolitan Police force was put under pressure to solve the case of a missing British woman as it gained increased media coverage as Tim called press conferences and befriended journalists to ensure there was a continued focus on finding Lucie.

American journalist Jake Adelstein who was based in Japan at the time and developed a friendship with Tim, describes him as a ‘very flamboyant showman who would use his charisma to stir up things so that something got done’.

Clips are played of Tim being told off by Japanese police officers, who were at loggerheads with the desperate father, as he took matters into his own hands and put up posters of Lucie on lampposts around the city.

He also held a meeting with then-UK prime minister Tony Blair, who stopped off on his way to a G7 summit in Japan to meet with Tim and discuss Lucie’s disappearance.

As well as documenting the police investigation into Lucie’s disappearance, the film also recalls Lucie’s bright, bubbly nature, which is much missed by her family.

Tim says of his daughter: ‘Lucy was our first born child and she completely transformed our lives.

‘She was very special in the family. She was very quick witted; she influenced many people around her.

‘I think many people who knew her as she was growing up as a girl orbited around her light, like she was very much the centre of things.’

He added it was a ‘big deal’ that she decided to become a flight attendant and move to Japan – which she had thought would be the best way to see the world and travel as much as possible.

However, she soon stopped working for the airline and instead took on a hostess job at a high-end club in the city.

The documentary explores the world of hostessing, a line of work in which women are paid to socialise with wealthy men in clubs while eating and drinking with them.

Experts speak about the career as a lucrative option for young women in the city who could earn up to $50 an hour wining and dining with the men in the clubs.

However it also uncovers a darker underbelly where women are at risk of sexual assault and exploitation at the hands of such powerful men.

The film also explores the case of Carita Ridgway, an Australian nightclub hostess who was raped and murdered in Tokyo in 1992 by Obara. 

Obara is currently serving a life sentence over Lucie and Carita’s deaths, as well as a string of rapes on other women.

In 2018, Tim Blackman said he would do everything in his power to ensure Obara was kept in jail for as long as the law allows, when he was asked about the possibility that his daughter’s killer would be up for parole.

The father said the feeling of anguish and anger had not subsided since her death, and described Obara as a ‘monster’.

He said: ‘Every day you think about what she’d be doing now, whether she would be married, whether I’d have grandchildren by her now. It leaves a constant chasm of emptiness when you lose someone young like that.’

Tim added: ‘You hear this word closure. But it just doesn’t exist in these sorts of cases. The notion that you just shut the door on that part of your life just doesn’t happen. As a father you don’t want to put that burden down.’ 

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