Japan's high court on Wednesday upheld a life sentence for a man convicted for raping and killing Briton Lindsay Hawker and burying her naked body in a sand-filled bathtub, in a case that horrified Japan and stirred a media frenzy five years ago.

Tatsuya Ichihashi, 33, who was living in the apartment where the 22-year-old English teacher's body was found in 2007, eluded a massive manhunt for nearly three years after fleeing when police arrived at his apartment to question him.

He mutilated his face to change his appearance.

Ichihashi appealed the verdict handed down by a district court last July denying he intended to kill Hawker and saying he was unaware he was suffocating her and tried to revive her.

Tokyo High Court rejected the appeal saying he has shown murderous intent, Kyodo news agency reported.

Kyodo quoted presiding Judge Yoshinobu Iida as saying that Ishihashi resorted to violence to satisfy his desire and committed a brutal crime.

Hawker's parents Julia and William had called for a death sentence, but after the trial in July said they were satisfied with the verdict. They did not attend the appeal trial last month or Wednesday's verdict announcement.

Japan is the only leading developed nation besides the United States to carry out the death penalty. Last month three men convicted of killing multiple victims were hanged in its first executions in nearly two years.

After Ichihashi's escape, police launched a nationwide search and offered a reward of 10 million yen ($123,600)for information leading to his arrest.

A visit to a plastic surgeon led to his arrest in 2009 after the doctor contacted police.

A former student of horticulture whom police described as a loner, Ichihashi wrote a book about his life on the run, which was published last year and became a bestseller. Ichihashi wanted earnings from it go to Hawker's family or charity.

Ichihashi must serve a minimum of 10 years in prison, after which he could be eligible for parole.

(Writing by Tomasz Janowski; Editing by Ed Lane)