Hawker's parents came from Britain to hear the verdict [Reuters]

A Japanese man has been sentenced to life imprisonment for raping and killing Briton Lindsay Ann Hawker and burying her naked body in a sand-filled bathtub in a case that shocked Japan.

The Chiba District Court on Thursday ordered Tatsuya Ichihashi to spend life behind bars for the death of 22-year-old teacher in 2007.

Public prosecutors had demanded life imprisonment for Ichihashi, 32, who was living in the apartment where Hawker's body was found in 2007.

Ichihashi confessed to causing her death, but had told the court earlier this month that he took her life accidentally.

Hawker's parents came from Britain to hear the verdict. Her mother wiped tears from her face and nodded several times as the sentence was announced.

Hawker's father had said they hoped Ichihashi would be given the strongest punishment possible. That could have meant death by hanging.

Ichihashi, in a black shirt and grey trousers, with a mop of curly hair, did not move as the verdict was being read out.

Nationwide search

After Ichihashi went missing, police conducted a nationwide search and offered up to 10 million yen [$127,000] as a reward for information leading to his arrest.

He even mutilated his face to change his appearance. A visit to a plastic surgeon ultimately led to Ichihashi's arrest in 2009 after the doctor contacted the police.

He was caught at a port in western Japan, where he was waiting for a ferry to the southern island of Okinawa.

Ichihashi this year published a bestseller detailing his life on the run, including how he changed his appearance and spent his time fishing on a remote island.

He said the sales proceeds should go to Hawker's family or charity.

Source: Agencies