Lives Lost in Translation: Vanished Overseas

Imagine someone from your family disappearing in a foreign country. Then imagine the trauma turning to tragedy when his or her body is discovered.

That was the situation facing two British families when first Lucie Blackman, and then Lindsay Hawker, were found murdered in Japan. In a country a world away, with police procedures as foreign as the language, two families were left searching for answers and hoping for justice.

Lindsay Hawker, 21, was the first of three sisters to leave her home in Warwickshire, England, for the distant shores of Japan, where she went to work as an English teacher. Lindsay's decision to go to Japan seemed like a positive one, until one March Sunday last year when communication with her family suddenly stopped.

Her disappearance in Tokyo created a chilling sense of déjà vu for another English family, that of Lucie Blackman, who had vanished in Tokyo seven years earlier.

Lucie's father, Tim Blackman, quickly reached out to the Hawker family to offer advice on how they should proceed. The Blackmans had focused on getting the press on their side when Lucie went missing.

"We wanted to get them interested in Lucie's case so that on primetime TV in the evening, Lucie's face would pop up," Blackman said.

Despite their efforts to publicize the case, the Blackman family heard nothing and waited more than six months for an answer about their daughter's fate.

Watch the story Friday on "20/20" at 10 p.m. ET

For Lindsay Hawker's family, things would move more quickly but with stunning similarity.

The morning after the family heard she was missing, authorities delivered the sad news that her body had been found buried in sand in a bathtub on the balcony of the Tokyo apartment of a horticultural student named Tatsuya Ichihashi, who had taken English lessons from her.

The Hawkers were caught in a delicate balance of trying to make sure the investigation was moving forward while trying not to offend the only people likely to catch their daughter's killer.

The hunt for Lindsay Hawker's suspected killer began in Tokyo, but he escaped capture. Police believed he fled to Canada or the United States. Police have issued an arrest warrant in his name for abandoning a body.

The investigations into the disappearances of the two young woman each began where they worked.

Lindsay Hawker taught English, and Lucie Blackman worked in one of Tokyo's numerous hostess clubs, a uniquely Japanese setting that became central to the mystery around her disappearance. When she vanished, police theorized that a hostess club client may have wanted more from her than he got in the club.

The investigation led authorities to a seaside condominium and its owner, real estate millionaire Joji Obara -- a bachelor who had a taste for expensive boats, flashy cars and Western women.

Obara had been arrested in a separate rape case, and eight women eventually came forward to say he'd drugged them, raped them and videotaped himself doing so.

As police investigating Blackman's disappearance searched his numerous properties, there were leaks about developing evidence -- sources said telephone records showed Blackman made a call from one of his mobile phones. And Obara's seaside apartment was located less than 300 yards from where Lucie's body was eventually found.

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