AS NICOLA FURLONG'S FAMILY WAIT TO SEE IF THEY CAN ATTEND COURT IN JAPAN, THEY SAY THEY'RE TOUCHED BY THE RESPONSE OF THE PEOPLE OF WEXFORD
NICOLA FURLONG'S FATHER, Andrew, has spoken of the fantastic support he and his family are receiving from the people of Wexford following his daughter's death in a hotel room in Japan in May.
While Andrew, Nicola's mother Angie and Nicola's sister Andrea are finding it hard to get over the tragic loss of the young Curracloe woman, they are drawing some comfort from the outpouring of sympathy from all over Wexford and indeed the whole country.
'I can honestly say the response has been truly overwhelming,' Andrew said. 'Every morning I wake up it's really tough to face into another day, but we've been really touched by the response of people locally and from all over the country. The amount of support we've received is astonishing. I haven't even managed to get through all the Mass cards yet. There's been so many of them arriving from all over the country that I'm still reading through them and they're still arriving, '
'I have people coming up to me in the street and in the supermarket and that offering me their deepest sympathies. I can tell you I've broken down and cried a couple of times in Dunne's talking to people. I suppose not many people have to go through a situation like this. Everyone has their cross to bear and everyone experiences tragedy at one point or another, but I think Nicola's story has touched a lot of people and we can take some comfort in that.'
A number of fundraisers have been scheduled to help the Furlong family with the high costs of travelling and accommodation which they will incur when the trial begins.
'People have been so good to us that way too,' Andrew said. ' There have been a number of fundraisers in recent weeks. I know Curracloe United are raising money and Aaron Berry is having the launch of the song he wrote down here in Furlong's and then there's this walk and street party that'll be taking place next month. People have been so generous and it means a lot to us.'
Meanwhile, Andrew is currently awaiting confirmation from the Japanese authorities as to whether or not he will be allowed to attend the first court appearance of Richard Hinds (19), the man accused of killing his daughter in a Japanese hotel room in May.
Mr Furlong was unaware that, under Japanese law, Hinds' defence lawyers may object to the presence of Nicola's family in the courtroom and the judge may not allow them to attend.
Andrew, his ex-wife Angie and daughter Andrea had already prepared to travel when they were informed of the legal technicality.
'We had gone ahead and made initial preparations,' Andrew said. 'We had provisionally booked flights and all that kind of thing and then we were informed that the defence might object to us being there. It's something like if we're there and no member of his (Hinds') family are there, it might influence the judge. We've had to send on a letter requesting that we can attend and we're hoping to hear back in the next couple of days.'
While Mr Furlong is adamant that he and his family want to travel over to the first court date, which is due to take place on July 26 and 27, he is respectful of the Japanese legal system and will accept whatever the judge's ruling on the matter is.
'We've decided that we want to be there. Some people think I'm mad wanting to go all that way for two or three hours when it's not even the real trial, but I think it's a good idea. It also gives Angie and Andrea a chance to get a feel for the country before it begins properly.
'I don't think any of the gory details will come out in the initial open court, so maybe it's a good way of getting the girls used to the environment. Still, it's a journey that we wish we didn't have to make. But at the end of the day, if the judge says no, we'll just have to accept that. We don't want to hinder the case in any way.'
Hinds' case will initially be heard in a family court, as in the eyes of Japanese law, he is still a minor at 19 years of age. However owing to the severity of the case as well as the fact that the suspect is extremely close to the age of legal responsibility (20), would suggest that the judge is likely to recommend a criminal trial. Andrew said: 'We're 99% certain that it will go to trial. It looks sure to, but I suppose there's always that one percent.'
Having visited Japan already since his daughters death and met with Japanese police officials, Mr Furlong is confident that justice will be served and that a conviction will be handed down for his daughter's killing. 'I can't fault their legal system at all,' he said. 'They are so scrupulous it's unbelievable.'