Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

It has been widely reported that Tokyo police last week arrested two American men, 23-year-old dancer, James Blackstone, and a teenage musician as part of an investigation into the death of Irish foreign exchange student, Nicola Furlong and the sexual assault of Ms. Furlong’s unnamed friend. As I have stated in previous posts and tweets, this is a senseless death of a person just starting out in life. The entire event is unfortunate and painful to all parties involved. As before, Black Tokyo sends its condolences to the Furlong family.

While there are rampant allegations, racist remarks, stereotypical assumptions and misogynistic views regarding this case, I have not heard or seen a timeline of events that occurred during that unfortunate night Ms. Furlong lost her life. The timeline or reports via Japanese news, wide shows and other forms of Japanese media are quite common. In my opinion, had the death been that of a Japanese woman at the hands of a foreigner, especially a Black American foreigner or a member of the US military in Japan, there would have been a plethora of simulations, theories, depictions, reports and other information on a daily basis. It is important to learn the truth, help the Furlong family find some sense of closure and ensure that justice is served.

Below is what Black Tokyo pieced together in trying to understand the events following the Nicki Minaj concert. Some or all of these things may explain circumstances leading to the death of Ms. Furlong. Ms. Furlong’s unidentified friend has stated to Japanese police that she does not recall much of what occurred. Some media outlets and many in the blogosphere have already tried and convicted both men of murder. Certain media outlets have even  described Ms. Furlong as a war victim. I’m trying to figure out which war the writers are making reference. As Black Tokyo has previously stated, if either man had a hand in the death of Ms. Furlong, let justice run its course and punish them under the full guise of the law. If not, let’s not “juice” them.

Here is our attempt to examine what was  provided to the police and to the press in order to provide more of the story for those not familiar with Japan, especially Tokyo, Japan.

Via CNN:

“The Kyoto News Agency is reporting that she and a friend went to a Nicki Minaj concert Wednesday night here in Tokyo, where she was approached by two Americans. She and her friend ended up with these men at a hotel in a party area here in Tokyo. The police confirm that she was hours later found dead in the hotel room. And that in that hotel room was one of these Americans. And at this point, the police say that they are trying to figure out how these two men fit in with this woman’s death.” Source

Via Independent.ie:

Nicola Furlong's remains taken inside the Furlong home

“Nicola’s life was brutally cut short when she was killed on Wednesday last. Her night had started out on a high — attending a rap concert with her college pal — before they missed their train back to the university where they were staying on campus.

Yesterday, her deeply traumatised friend, who cannot recollect the events of the horrific night, arrived home. Police are investigating if the two women were drugged and plied with alcohol by two young American men before being sexually assaulted.

Nicola was found unconscious on the floor of a hotel room and she died as she was rushed to hospital.” Source

Two very different forms of reporting. Let’s examine what is said in both reports to separate fact from fiction in our quest for the truth!

THE CONCERT AND VENUE

The Nicki Minaj concert was held on May 23, 2012. Doors opened at 6:00 p.m. and the show was scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m at Zepp Tokyo located in Tokyo’s Odaiba area.

“Zepp Tokyo fits approximately 2,709 people standing. An estimated 2,419 people can stand on the first floor, while 293 people can fit on the 2nd floor (200 in coaches, 93 standing). There are 1204 chairs, with 1004 on the first floor and 200 on the second.

There is no food available in the facility, but drinks are served (beer and whiskey being the most popular).” Source

Typically concerts at Zepp Tokyo last 2-3 hours based on my experience attending shows and accompanying artists.

 

ACCESSING THE CONCERT VENUE

“The two main train stations that lead to Zepp Tokyo are the Aomi Station (Yurikamome Line) and the Tokyo Teleport Station (Rinkai Line). It is about a 5 minute walk from Tokyo Teleport Station to Zepp Tokyo.

Giving concert goers an additional 1-hour in the event the show started late, allowing time to leave the building and walk to the nearest station (which is 5-minutes away) or attempt access backstage (Ms. Furlong texted her mother that wanted an invite to the Minaj after party, see below), it is estimated that the latest a person would arrive at the nearest train station close to 2300, if the concert lasted three hours.

“According to the Independent.ie, Tokyo student murder: Nicola sent last text to mum hours before she died:

“Nicola’s heartbroken mother Angela revealed: “She sent me a text message before the concert saying: ‘We put on our fake tan, all our shaving is done we are ready to go now mam, talk to you soon. Ten weeks and I’ll be back in Ireland’.” ”Mrs Furlong told the Irish Mirror that Nicola (21) said she was going to get invited to the US singer’s after-party.” ”She joked that next time we saw her would be in the papers drinking champagne with Nicki Minaj; she didn’t know that the next time we would see her it would be in the papers as a victim.””

I am curious to know if Ms. Furlong’s text to her mother that “she was going to get invited to the US singer’s after-party” was sent prior to the concert, during the concert or after the concert. Depending on the time frame, that statement takes on an entirely different meaning.

  • If the portion of the text was sent prior to the concert and Ms. Furlong and her friend had not met Blackstone and the teenager, it would suggest that she and her friend only intended to gain access to the after-party. Typically, this would involve knowing or meeting someone from the Minaj crew, management team, promoter or Japan-side handlers. That is, if an “official” after-party was planned.
  • If her text was sent during the concert, all of the above apply. It would be plausible that the two young ladies met someone at the concert and may have been promised access to the after-party. If they were promised access, it would have been done after the show if, as the media leads many to believe, Blackstone and the teenager were part of Minaj’s performance. If not, the two would have had to meet them prior to the show or somehow met them after the show. Typically, after leaving the Green Room at Zepp Tokyo the performers would not enter the venue. The concert attendees would require access to the backstage.
  • If the text was made after the show, it would mean that the two women were promised access to the after party by someone from the Minaj crew, management team, promoter or Japan-side handlers. Nicki Minaj has responded to allegations that the two men were part of her crew, they were not!

MISSING THE LAST TRAIN

According to reports, the foursome arrived in Shibuya, had dinner and apparently went clubbing (reportedly in separate pairs). The women are said to have missed their last train home. I am not sure if it was reported that they missed the last train from the station closest to the concert venue or from Shibuya. In any case, here are the train schedules for the night of the concert, May 23, 2012:

From Odaiba (where Tokyo Zepp is located) to Shibuya (where the foursome had food and drinks) by train takes 20 minutes. The train departed Tokyo Tele-Port station at 2256 and arrived at 2316 in Shibuya. Click here for the Japanese Train Route Finder shown above.

From Shibuya to Tokyo Station, Ms. Furlong and her friend would need to take the 2330 train to arrive at Tokyo Station at 2349. Their train to Takasaki would depart at 0020, 24 May 12. The women would have 31-minutes to walk from the subway located in the terminal building to their departing train platform.

The last train from Shibuya to Tokyo Station, departs at 2340 train to arrive at Tokyo Station at 2357. Their train to Takasaki would depart at 0020, 24 May 12. The women would have 22-minutes to walk from the subway located in the terminal building to their departing train platform.

 

 

As shown above, the last train to Takasaki (Furlong and friend’s town) departed Tokyo Station at 0020, May 24, 2012. With my estimate that the latest the women would arrive at the station to be 2300, they would have had one-hour and twenty-minutes before the last train’s departure.

If the women would have departed directly from the concert venue via Tokyo TelePort Station to Takasaki, the the latest train to catch would be 2359, May 23, 2012. With my estimate that the latest the women would arrive at the station to be 2300, the women would have had 59-minutes before the last train’s departure.

If the women would have departed directly from the concert venue via Aomi Station to Takasaki, the the latest train to catch would be 0010, May 24, 2012.With my estimate that the latest the women would arrive at the station to be 2300, the women would have had one-hour and ten-minutes before the last train’s departure. Click here to access the train routes and schedules.

SHIBUYA

So it “appears” that the women would have had enough time to catch the train back home after the concert. If the women decided to grab a bite to eat, restaurants near the concert venue close at 11 p.m. [SourceHowever, there are plenty of 24-hour restaurants and bars or izakayas open in Shibuya until the sun comes up.

Reportedly, the women went to a club in Shibuya and most-likely prior to that had something to eat. Since the women liked hip-hop (they attended a Nicki Minaj concert), they may have visited Club 99 Gas Panic or Club Harlem. Club Asia played Rock – Psychedelic – Grunge the night Ms. Furlong and friend were in town,  Womb offered drum & bass and Club Pure, now called Xanadu, is only open on the weekends has the ame rules of operation, Hip Hop and RnB all night with an all-you-can-drink being one of the attractions was closed.

SHIBUYA TO THE KEIO PLAZA HOTEL

Now this is where it gets tricky. It has been reported that the two men and two women took a taxi from Shibuya to the Keio Plaza Hotel. If the women missed their last train from Shibuya at 2340, they should have still had enough time to reach Tokyo station via taxi to make the 0020 departing train. Did the women plan on taking a train from Shibuya to Takasaki?

THE TAXI

The next and most convoluted timeline is from 0020 (20 minutes past midnight), which is when the last train to Takasaki departed from Tokyo Station. The earliest train the following morning from where the women were located, Shibuya, was scheduled to leave at 0525, May 24, 2012 via the Saikyo train line to Takasaki.

For whatever the reason, the women did not take a train home. Instead, they found themselves -according to various reports in the Japanese press- “so drunk that they could hardly walk” heading to, being pushed in or carried to a taxi. A taxi that would not only take them to the Keio Plaza Hotel but would be center in the investigation of Ms. Furlong’s death.

One key element that was reported is that Ms. Furlong’s friend was groped or fondled (some papers use the term raped) during the taxi ride to the hotel. The incident was recorded via the taxi’s security camera.  Here is some background on the camera system [via The Japan Times online].

“The camera records around the clock but it will only be played if “necessary.” Only the head and other managers at Fuji branches who have access to the password are allowed to view the videos, which are automatically erased after 30 hours have passed.

The videos have been used in about 30 cases in the past six months to clear false complaints.

“We can provide evidence, so there is no need for us to bear silently with the complaints anymore,” said Hisashi Umemura, a Fuji Taxi director.”

Katsuya Ichihashi, a professor at Nagoya University’s Graduate School of Law, said taxi companies should clearly tell passengers they are being filmed and recorded, and the circumstances under which those videos could be used.

He also said the firms should draft clear guidelines on how they decide to submit videos as evidence for police investigations.

As of March 2011, the ratio of taxis with interior surveillance cameras was 11 percent in Aichi Prefecture, 57 percent in Tokyo and 60 percent in Osaka, according to the federation of hire-taxi associations for anticrime cooperation.”

AT THE KEIO PLAZA HOTEL

So from 0020 (the time that the women definitely missed the last train) to a little after 0300, what happened? Assuming the taxi wait and ride to the hotel took 20 to 30-minutes, depending on traffic, that would place the group back at the hotel at approximately 0100.

It has been established that:

“A little after 3 a.m. Thursday, a hotel guest reported loud noises from one of the rooms. An employee came to investigate and found Furlong lying on the floor unconscious. She was pronounced dead shortly afterward.”

This statement was recently issued (via the Irish Times online):

“A spokesman for her family said they were devastated by the loss.

“Nicola was a warm, generous, stunning person who always had time for her family and other people. Nicola will always be the centre of our lives. She stood for everything that is good in life.”

Yesterday the family issued a statement which said in part: “The Japanese police are continuing their investigations into the circumstances surrounding Nicola’s death. As these circumstances are unclear at this time we respectfully request time and space to mourn Nicola with dignity.

“Rumours and innuendo circulating in the press are speculation and are without foundation.

“The family will make no further comment.””

In looking at establishing a time line, the period between 0100 to 0300 needs to be established. We have already reported what we learned early on in the investigation. More to come after we scour news articles and search for additional sources and leads.
Black Tokyo will continue in its attempt to provide you with the rest of the story. If nothing else, we hope that the background on life in Japan will help the reader sort through the myriad of information being presented.
Please feel free to leave your comments! If you reference any material, please give attribution. If you have any corrections or additions, please feel free to share.
The following BT’ers contributed to the Nicola Furlong investigation: @blacktokyo, @onmugen @starrwulfe @ogPegasus303

Have inquiries? Feel free to contact “investigation@blacktokyo.com” regarding the Nicola Furlong case.

Follow Black Tokyo on Twitter: @blacktokyo
#RIPNicolaFurlong
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