One November morning in 1995 Lucie Blackman’s mother, Jane, received a phone call from a stranger, a man, who told her that her husband, Tim, was sleeping with his wife. Jane’s reaction was to throw Tim out of the front door and his clothes out of the bedroom window. From that moment her life was dominated by bitterness, vindictiveness and thoughts of revenge. Any semblance of happiness in the Blackman family was destroyed.
But what began as a routinely disfunctional family became a tragic one. Within a few years Lucie, who had gone to Tokyo to earn money to cover her credit card debts, had been raped and murdered; her sister Sophie had been confined to a mental hospital; her brother had had to leave university because of a nervous breakdown and her father had become an object of vilification in the tabloid press.
The story of the destruction of the Blackman family is told by Richard Lloyd Parry in his book, “People Who Eat Darkness”. This true story is made all the more compelling by the fact that both Lucie and her killer kept diaries and because of the wealth of detail which emerged during a ten year trial. The case was extensively covered in the English press and the author does an excellent job in correcting many of the myths and prejudices about Japanese life which appeared in the papers. But life in England is also laid bare and there are so many difficult truths that I would be uncomfortable about any of my Japanese friends reading it. No explanation is given for the enigmatic title “People Who Eat Darkness”, but it may just be us.
Postscript: To give an idea of how compelling this book is, I received it from Amazon at lunchtime yesterday, and although I had lots of things planned, as soon as I’d started the first page I had to put everything on hold until I’d finished it (all 385 pages).
Since writing the above I have learnt that both Rupert and Sophie Blackman are making a good recovery from their trauma. Rupert is a musician living happily in Utrecht and Sophie works for the NHS is Hertfordshire. Their father, Tim, described by the author as “likeable and admirable” runs the Lucie Blackman Trust Missing Abroad programme, with the support of the Foreign Office – www.missingabroad.org, but still has to battle with his ex-wife’s relentlessy destructive efforts.