Out of all the possible mishaps of one strangely disappearing, perhaps one of the scariest is to go missing in a foreign country, far away from one’s home and culture. The latest Netflix true-crime documentary film Missing: The Lucie Blackman Case presents one such disappearance, that of twenty-one-year-old British woman Lucie Blackman, who suddenly disappeared while in Tokyo in July of 2000. The case itself being quite intriguing and harrowing, and the craft with which the documentary film has been made, make Missing: The Lucie Blackman Case an interesting and chilling watch.
Who Was Lucie Blackman?
Born in 1978, Lucie Jane Blackman was the first child of her parents, Tim and Jane Blackman, and she was, therefore, understandably the light of their lives. Described by Tim as a quick-witted girl capable of influencing people around her, Lucie was a bright kid who had no trouble being the center of attention. After finishing school, the young woman wanted to travel the world and experience other places and cultures, dreaming of leaving her home in Kent, England. Lucie immediately knew that joining an airline as an attendant would get her closer to achieving her dream, and she started working for British Airways. It was at the turn of the century that Lucie decided to settle in Japan, at least temporarily, and she found work as a hostess in Tokyo.
The exact details of the work of a hostess in a club are explained by another Western woman who has once worked the same profession, Suzy Quinn, and as she admits, there is no equivalent role in Western countries. A woman working as a hostess in a club in Japan essentially means that she works shifts at a nightclub, giving company to groups of men who visit, pouring them drinks, and exchanging pleasantries. The concept of any intimate activities is totally unrelated to being a hostess, and the expectations from a woman in this profession are strictly to have conversations, pour drinks, and see to the merriment of the guests. The men who visit are generally much older than the women who work at the clubs, and there is undoubtedly a play of intimate tension and power dynamics in the entire matter. Although being a hostess at a club does not entail any physical favors, the practice of “dohan,” which essentially means going out on paid dates with men, can get a bit more complex. In this latter practice, hostesses of a club also go out with men who pay for dates with them so that they remain patrons of the particular club.
To Western women, especially at the very happening time around 2000, working as hostesses in Japanese clubs was no unnatural or unfavorable matter at all. Many foreign women worked in the profession, particularly those who were seeking to learn about new cultures and meet new people. Lucie Blackman, too, took the job of a hostess and started working in a club called Casablanca situated in the Tokyo’s Roppongi district. Roppongi was no shabby place either, as it was already quite prominent as a district with exciting nightlife and where many foreign nationals working in Japan often visited. However, the horrific story of Lucie Blackman began on July 1, 2000, when she could last be tracked through phone call records. Her family in Kent grew cautious about Lucie not having called home in a number of days, and the Japanese police were notified as well.
As soon as Lucie’s apartment was checked and her local acquaintances were spoken to, it was clear that the woman had mysteriously vanished without any trace. The Tokyo police department began an investigation, but there was admittedly not much pressure put on it. At first, it seemed to everyone that Lucie might have gone over to the neighboring country of Thailand without informing anyone, as people often do for vacations. The Japanese authorities also knew that many foreign nationals visiting the country with tourist visas eventually wanted to stay back and look for work without informing the authorities. In such cases, it was very common for these foreigners to disappear and hide from public view in order to avoid the authorities. Also coinciding with this matter was the fact that many such foreign women actually worked as hostesses in the many nightclubs of the city. Despite prior reports of malpractice and harassment that some hostesses had faced while working in the clubs, the police did not pay much heed to any of it since none of the women actually came forward and complained.
Therefore, Lucy Blackman’s case was also not given too much attention in the initial days. But this situation changed for the better when Lucy’s father, Tim Blackman, traveled to Tokyo some eleven days after the woman had gone missing. A presumably substantial man, both in terms of wealth and influence, Tim started to appear in Japanese media and tried his best to bring Lucy’s disappearance to public attention. Following this step by the father, media outlets from England also started reporting on the matter, and soon it became very public news. Within a few days, British Prime Minister Tony Blair also visited Japan in order to attend the G8 summit, and Tim managed to meet with Blair, asking for special urgency in finding his daughter. Tony Blair conveyed the message to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, and Japan promised to find Lucy’s whereabouts. It was also this occurrence that perhaps created more pressure on the Japanese authorities, and ultimately a proper police investigation was started.
What Did The Investigation Reveal?
As Tokyo police started to investigate Lucie’s disappearance, they started looking into the particular nightclubs at Roppongi and stumbled upon something suspicious from the past. There had been a report of one of the hostesses from one of the clubs having been taken on a paid date by a customer, who had then seemingly drugged her and kept her unconscious for a stretch of hours. Despite the strange occurrence, the police had not acted on it earlier because they were notified of it by a club manager who was not very trustworthy either. With Lucie still missing, the police dug some more and found that this customer had a particular habit of driving around in expensive foreign cars. Over time, multiple reports about a man drugging hostesses and trying to sexually assault them surfaced, and the police now had more clues to follow.
Among the victims was an Australian woman named Jessie, who told the police that she had actually noted down the phone number of the perpetrator in her notebook, which was now in her native home. Once this diary was flown to Japan, the name and phone number of the perpetrator were found. Although the name did not come to much use, as the man had actually been cautious enough to hide his real identity, the phone number did help. The number was found to have contacted Lucie around the time of her disappearance, and the phone was immediately tracked. The location was found to be in a high-end neighborhood in Tokyo named Akasaka, and it led to an exact residential building. Going over to the place, the investigators found out about a man who was renting out two apartments in the building for a company named P-Orihara. They also learned that the man renting the apartments was quite strange and a loner who also owned a few luxurious cars, all characteristics fitting in with the potential perpetrator.
Around this time, some of the victims agreed to directly help the police, and one of the women took the police to where she had been taken by the perpetrator and assaulted. This place was, once again, a posh location called Zushi Marina, and the authorities searched for a name. Using the crucial clue that the perpetrator had a fancy for foreign cars, the police found the name of Joji Obara, a wealthy man who had inherited multiple luxurious properties in Japan from his parents. Despite being wealthy, Obara was a loner, and as one of the investigators realized, the name Obara can also be referred to as Oriahara, which had been found at the building in Akasaka. Soon the man was tracked down and brought into custody while his apartment was thoroughly searched. An incredible number of highly perverse videos were found, in all of which Obara would drug a woman unconscious and then force himself upon them for hours, treating them no different than lifeless pleasure toys. A metal hook found on the ceiling of his apartment had made the police think, and now, from the videos, it was realized that Obara would horrifically tie the victims’ legs up onto that hook in order to keep them in the position for hours.
Despite all the evidence found against Obara, the man did not confess to anything and kept claiming that all these acts had been consensual. The police needed the victims to state that it was non-consensual, but most of them could not even remember what had happened to them, and some even denied the videos were theirs. Ultimately, the authorities started looking into how to prove that the women had been drugged unconscious, as that would be enough to prove quasi-rape according to Japanese law. There had been an earlier case of another Australian woman named Carita Ridgway, who had mysteriously died some years ago after she had been admitted to a hospital and claimed that she had suffered food poisoning. However, the reality was that Obara had sedated her using chloroform, which caused complications in her body and ultimately led to her death due to organ failure. Fortunately, Carita’s liver had been stored away by the hospital authorities for further study, and now, when Carita was seen in one of the videos taped by Obara, her liver was studied, with traces of chloroform found. The two matters combined were enough evidence to suggest that Joji Obara had raped all of the women on the videotapes, a number that was almost close to 400.
Where Was Lucie Blackman?
Although Obara could be charged with the death of Carita Ridgeway and the sexual assault of others, the case of Lucie Blackman remained a mystery. Although evidence had been found of Lucie and Obara going to Zushi Marina on the day of her disappearance, the fact that her body had not yet been found meant that no charges of murder could be brought against the man. Another apartment belonging to the man had also been found in another posh locality called Blue Sea Aburatsubo, and a search here began as well. The local police authorities were reportedly given just one more week to search the vicinity of this apartment, as it was believed that Lucie had most likely been killed at Zushi Marina and then her body brought to Blue Sea Aburatsubo, where it was possibly dismembered. Finally, on February 9, 2001, around 223 days after she had gone missing, Lucie Blackman’s body was found stowed in a bathtub inside a remote cave along the seashore.
What Happened To Joji Obara?
Soon after the discovery of Lucie’s body, Joji Obara was put up for a court trial with multiple charges against him. It was only possible to charge him for the rape of eight women among his close to 400 victims, and the man was ultimately found guilty of these charges, as well as the death of Carita Ridgway. But Obara was found not guilty by the Japanese court of any of the charges related to Lucie. This was due to the fact that the evidence had not been arranged into a neat case by the police yet because the court trial started very soon after Lucie’s body was found.
Nonetheless, the Blackman family remained strong and undeterred in bringing justice to their beloved Lucie. Finally, in April of 2007, the case was sent to appeal, as asked for by the Blackman family, and Joji Obara was proven guilty of dismembering and abandoning Lucie’s body. As a result, Obara’s life imprisonment sentence, which he was already serving, became irreversible. Missing: The Lucie Blackman Case ends with the memory of Lucie as recalled by her family in Kent and also by the authorities in Japan. As far as Obara is concerned, the man had supposedly appealed against his sentence in 2010, but the Supreme Court in Japan denied the heinous criminal any mercy.