THE family of murdered Nicola Furlong are "taking solace" from the news that her killer will be incarcerated in Japan's harshest prison.
Richard Hinds (19) was today experiencing life in a freezing cold cell in Tokyo's notorious Fuchu Prison.
The conditions inside are described as "military-like" – with the heat only being switched on when temperatures hit zero degrees.
Nicola's parents, Andrew and Angie, and her sister Andrea were today preparing for their 28-hour flight home from Tokyo following the harrowing two-week trial.
Andrew's brother, John Furlong, said the family was "taking solace" from the fact that Hinds will spend at least five years in the "hellish" environment.
"It's unbelievable the type of treatment prisoners get there – it makes Mountjoy prison look like a five-star hotel," he said.
"But it's what Hinds deserves. He killed our Nicola. He took her away from us – her beautiful smile, her lovely eyes."
Meanwhile, Nicola's boyfriend, Danny Furlong has paid a poignant tribute to the girl he called "Nic".
"No sentence would have eased any of the pain caused, but Nic's name has been cleared and that's the main thing."
Angie Furlong revealed yesterday that she is considering contacting the Japanese authorities to request further tests on Nicola's blood. The family is convinced she was drugged on the night she was found dead – a claim unproven at the trial.
John Furlong told the Herald: "We really don't know what will happen next. While we have closure, things like whether Nicola was drugged is something we need to continue to look at. The fight goes on to find out the answers to the many questions still there.
"We still have Nicola's anniversary on May 23 – that's the next milestone we have to overcome. The grieving process still has to run its course."
Memphis-born musician Richard Hinds was sentenced yesterday to between five and 10 years in prison for the murder of the DCU student. He was not eligible for the death penalty because he is a minor under Japanese law.
There were emotional scenes outside the court when Nicola's sister Andrea (18) expressed her fury at the sentence.
"I am so angry and I am so hurt," she said. "We had so much faith in the Japanese doing justice for us and I don't feel we got it. I am disgusted."
Her father Andrew said he would be "sickened" if Hinds was released after five years.
"I wasn't looking for the death sentence. He has family and I'd hate them to be going through what he put us through. But I'd be sickened if he got out in five years."