THE family of murdered student Nicola Furlong were expected to return to Ireland today following a preliminary court hearing in Japan.
The Wexford student's family learned yesterday that three judges in a Japanese court have sent the 19-year-old suspect in the murder case forward for trial in the criminal courts, which will treat him as an adult.
The defendant, Richard Hinds, who is a musician from the United States, is charged with strangling Ms Furlong to death in a Tokyo hotel in May.
The penalty for murder is life imprisonment.
If the teen suspect had been tried as a juvenile, he would have faced the possibility of a maximum of five years in prison if convicted.
The 21-year-old Wexford woman was in Japan as part of her studies with Dublin City University.
Speaking afterwards, Nicola's father Andrew Furlong said: "We are very happy with everything that went on today."
The judges made their decision based on victim impact statements from Ms Furlong's family and police reports into the case. A source in the Tokyo Public Prosecutors' Office has said he could not predict when the trial would begin, but is likely to be months away.
The Furlongs, who were due to fly home today, have pledged to return to Tokyo for the trial.
Nicola's mother Angela Furlong, said: "It was very daunting coming out but we're glad we did."
While Japan still retains the death penalty, it is generally only used in multiple murder trials.
Nicola had been due to complete her studies and return home this firstname.lastname@example.org