Image: Tatsuya Ichihashi, before, left, and after cosmetic surgery
AP
Tatsuya Ichihashi, the prime suspect in the 2007 murder case of British language school teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker, is shown before, left, and after cosmetic surgeries in these images distributed Nov. 6, 2009 by Chiba Prefectural Gyotoku Police.
updated 7/4/2011 4:55:15 AM ET 2011-07-04T08:55:15

A Japanese man admitted in court Monday to raping and strangling a young British woman, but the man who attempted cosmetic surgery on his own face in an attempt to evade a nationwide manhunt said he never meant to kill the 22-year-old.

Tatsuya Ichihashi is charged with murdering English teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker at his apartment in 2007.

The case became one of Japan's highest-profile murders after Hawker's body was found in a dirt-filled bathtub on the balcony of Ichihashi's apartment.

At the opening of his trial on Monday, he said he raped Hawker and caused her death, but said he didn't mean to kill her, as prosecutors charge.

"I did not intend to kill her, but I am responsible for her death," Ichihashi told the court as Hawker's father looked on impassively. "I am very sorry for what I did."

Two years on the run
Hawker, of Brandon, England, was in Japan to teach English. She worked as an instructor at a private language school, where Ichihashi was a student.

Ichihashi went on the run after police found Hawker's body in his apartment.

He evaded police for more than two years, using false identities and cosmetic surgery to avoid detection.

Story: Accused killer: I performed plastic surgery on myself

In a book published after his eventual arrest in 2009, Ichihashi describes his life on the run, including how he scissored off his lower lip, dug two moles out of his cheek with a box cutter and even gave himself a nose job in an attempt to obscure his identity.

He doesn't describe the crime or his motives in the book, "Until the Arrest," instead detailing his life at large, during which he traveled up and down the country, in constant fear of arrest and obsessed with cosmetic surgery.

The defense argued that Ichihashi tried to revive Hawker after suffocating her by accident in an attempt to keep her from crying out for help from the neighbors. Ichihashi, however, admitted to tying her up and raping her.

Prosecutors have not yet entered a sentencing demand, though the crime could bring the death penalty. A verdict is expected by July 21.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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