Armed with tantalizing new information and an apparent recent sighting, police are hot on the trail of the last fugitive of the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo.
The arrest on June 3 of Naoko Kikuchi, 40, on suspicion of murder and attempted murder leaves only Katsuya Takahashi, 54, as the last Aum member wanted for his involvement in the murderous attack on Tokyo's subway system in March 1995.
According to sources close to the investigation, Kikuchi apparently maintained contact with Takahashi as recently as two years ago. Meanwhile, other sources said a man bearing a striking resemblance to Takahashi was spotted in surveillance camera footage on June 4 in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Police sources said Takahashi lived for about 10 years in an apartment in Kawasaki's Saiwai Ward until late last year.
According to investigative sources, police were told that Takahashi was sighted in Kawasaki on June 4, the day after Kikuchi was arrested. Police analyzed surveillance camera footage and confirmed that a man bearing a resemblance to Takahashi was captured on video. He had features that matched Kikuchi's testimony of his physical characteristics. Police are analyzing other video footage.
Police lost track of Takahashi from about November 1996 when he was thought to be in hiding along with other Aum members at a condominium in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture.
On June 4, police also arrested Hiroto Takahashi, 41, no relation to Katsuya Takahashi, who lived with Kikuchi, on suspicion of harboring a fugitive.
Sources said Hiroto Takahashi explained in detail to police interrogators about the background to his becoming acquainted with Kikuchi and also his contact with a man who may have been Katsuya Takahashi.
In around 2006, Hiroto Takahashi went to an apartment in Kawasaki to pick up Kikuchi's belongings so they could begin living together. At that time, Hiroto Takahashi met a man who resembled Katsuya Takahashi. The three met occasionally thereafter. In 2010, the three met at the Kawasaki apartment and talked. Police believe that may be the last time Kikuchi was in contact with Katsuya Takahashi.
On June 4, police went to the Kawasaki apartment, but Katsuya Takahashi was no longer living there.
According to responses given by Kikuchi, she first went on the run with Yasuo Hayashi after police began their concerted investigation of the Aum cult from March 1995. Hayashi has since been sentenced to death for his involvement in the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
Kikuchi subsequently met up with Katsuya Takahashi, and the two stayed in various hotels near Shin-Yokohama and Kawasaki stations before moving into an apartment near Kawasakidaishi Station, where they lived together for three to four years.
The two subsequently moved to an apartment near Kawasaki Station on the JR Nanbu Line. It was at about that time that Kikuchi first became acquainted with Hiroto Takahashi. In total, Kikuchi and Katsuya Takahashi spent about 10 years living together as fugitives.
In response to police questioning, Kikuchi reportedly said, "I loved Hiroto and did not want to change our lifestyle."
Hiroto Takahashi told police that he had thought at one time of turning himself in to police along with Kikuchi, but was never able to follow through with it.
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