Tokyo, 2 January – A male follower of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, which has been renamed Aleph, was found dead in a bathtub at the group’s facility in Tokyo on Sunday [2 January], the police said.
The police said they suspect the dead follower is Wakashio Togashi, 45, a former senior Aum member who served a prison term for involvement in the cult’s sarin gas attack in June 1994 in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and having a hand in the construction of its sarin plant.
While a police autopsy found the cause of his death to be drowning, group members suggested he may have died from an accident while going through “thermal training” in which followers soak for long hours in hot water with temperatures of about 50 C.
“To prevent unforeseen accidents, we have fully banned thermal training within our group,” the group said in a statement issued Sunday.
According to police investigators, an Aum follower called police at around midnight Saturday saying a fellow member had died.
Officers who arrived at the scene in Adachi Ward found the man dead in a bathtub. Togashi, who is believed to have been in the bathroom from around 9 p.m. [local time], was naked and did not have any noticeable external injuries, police sources said.
Togashi was released from prison after receiving an eight-year sentence for abetting murders by having a hand in the building of a vehicle to sprinkle sarin in a Matsumoto residential area, as well as for his role in the construction of the plant in Yamanashi Prefecture.
Seven residents were killed and more than 100 others were injured in the attack.
Aum renamed itself Aleph in January 2000 to distance itself from its criminal image, but it remains under surveillance by the Justice Ministry’s Public Security Intelligence Agency.
Senior Aum members have been convicted for carrying out a series of crimes, including the Matsumoto sarin attack and the March 1995 sarin attack in the Tokyo subway system.