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.

Police gathered enough evidence against Obara that he was charged in Blackman's death and was also connected to the mysterious death of a young woman from Australia, Carita Ridgway, who died in 1992.

Like Blackman, Ridgway moved to Tokyo when she was 21 and began working at a hostess club. For Ridgway, hostessing allowed her to sightsee and earn extra money to put toward her dream of becoming an actress.

That was until she was dropped at a Tokyo hospital gravely ill by a man calling himself Nishita. He told the doctors that Ridgway had had a violent reaction to bad shellfish, and then left.

When Ridgway's parents arrived in Japan, the family's requests for an investigation into the mysterious Nishita were, they say, ignored by both the Australian Embassy and the Tokyo police.

Ridgway was moved to a second hospital, and her family was told she had suffered liver failure, was in a coma, brain dead and on life support. She was cremated on the day before her 22nd birthday, and her ashes were brought back to Australia.

Whatever peace the family made with her death over time was shattered eight years later when Lucie Blackman's remains were found.

After an arrest was made in the Blackman case, Ridgway's family was told that the so-called Mr. Nishita who had brought Ridgway to the hospital was really Joji Obara, who was being charged with killing Lucie Blackman and was suspected in administering a fatal dose of chloroform to Ridgway.

Among the evidence police found in their search of Obara's homes was a diary note that read, "Carita Ridgway, too much chloroform," and a videotape of Obara raping her.

Fifteen years after Carita Ridgway died and eight years after Lucie Blackman's body was found, their families would hear the verdict on the man charged in the deaths of their daughters. "20/20" delivers the unexpected conclusion for two families seeking justice, as well as another family's continued search for answers. Plus, would Lindsay Hawker's killer be caught?