Manhunt for Final Sarin Gas Attack Fugitive Closing In

Japanese police are closing in on the last remaining fugitive wanted in connection with the deadly 1995 sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway, with detectives trailing just hours behind the last known whereabouts of Katsuya Takahashi.

The Wall Street Journal reports

The search for Mr. Takahashi, a former member of the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult that was behind the attacks, has accelerated practically overnight after the arrest of another Aum fugitive, Naoko Kikuchi, earlier this week. Information from Ms. Kikuchi put police hot on Mr. Takahashi’s trail, which had gone largely cold since the late 1990s. Mr. Takahashi has been on the run for 17 years.

Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun says Takahashi

fled his hideout in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, on the afternoon of June 4, only about four hours before police found and raided it, investigative sources said.

Takahashi’s quick decision to flee the dormitory of a construction company he had worked for came hours after the arrest on the evening of June 3 of another AUM fugitive, 40-year-old Naoko Kikuchi.

Using clues based on statements from 41-year-old Hiroto Takahashi, who was arrested on June 4 on suspicion of harboring Kikuchi, and other sources, police came to find out that Katsuya Takahashi, using the pseudonym “Shinya Sakurai,” had lived in an apartment in Kawasaki’s Saiwai Ward. Investigators rushed to the apartment before dawn on June 4, but they found out that Takahashi had already moved out around October last year.

After tracing Katsuya Takahashi’s whereabouts thereafter, investigators found out that the former cultist was living in the dormitory of a construction company he worked for in Kawasaki’s Kawasaki Ward. Investigators arrived at the dormitory at around 6:30 p.m. on June 4, but they failed to find Takahashi there.

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) announced on June 6 that based on DNA analysis of samples taken from cotton swabs left in a trash can in his room at the dormitory it was confirmed that the man who had been hiding in Kawasaki was Katsuya Takahashi.

Kyodo News reports that Takahashi

had more than ¥10 million in bank accounts when fellow fugitive Naoko Kikuchi, 40, was arrested late Sunday, sources said Wednesday.

Takahashi, who is believed to have been hiding in Kawasaki until recently, withdrew some Â¥2.4 million Monday from a bank account opened under the name “Shinya Sakurai,” a real person, the sources said. He reportedly used the name to rent an apartment in Kawasaki in 2001.

In all, Takahashi had more than ¥10 million in various bank accounts when Kikuchi was arrested, the sources said.

Police believe that in his hurry to flee after Kikuchi’s arrest, Takahashi went to a bank to withdraw about Â¥2.4 million rather than use an automated teller machine, which limits the amount that can be withdrawn. […]

Police are combing through his bank transactions to determine if other cult members aided his flight. They are also checking security videos at railway stations, and have told police nationwide to be on the lookout.

Meanwhile, pictures of Takahashi have been released in the hope of gathering information that leads to his arrest. […]

In his recent photos, Takahashi looks very different from the man who appeared on wanted posters in 1995. In particular, his eyebrows and face shape have changed.

10 million Yen = 125,894.20 USD / 100,049.83 EUR / 81,215.24 GBP

Naoka Kikuchi

Meanwhile The Australian reports that Naoka Kikuchi, the Aum Shinrikyo fugutive arrested last Sunday, reportedly

admitted to investigators that she had helped produce the sarin gas used to poison 13 people in the Tokyo subway.

But she said she was unaware of what the Aum Shinrikyo (or Supreme Truth) cult planned to use the poison for. At the time, cult members had amassed an arsenal of chemical, biological and conventional weapons in anticipation of an apocalyptic showdown with the government.

Kikuchi has been charged with murder, attempted murder and other offences.

Research resources on AUM shinrikyo
Final police tally confirms 6,583 fell victim to 8 Aum-related crimes
How AUM Shinrikyo justified violence
Life inside AUM Shinrikyo
How cult apologists, including J. Gordon Melton and James R. Lewis, defended Aum Shrinrikyo
Aum Shinrikyo may be gone in name but guru still has following
Ex-prosecutor: ‘Aum made preparations to topple the government’

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday June 7, 2012.
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