Aum fugitive's weakness for manga may have led to capture

June 15, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

The last fugitive from the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult gave himself up quietly outside a 24-hour manga cafe in Tokyo on June 15 after more than 17 years on the run.

Police learned around 8:30 a.m. that a man resembling 54-year-old Katsuya Takahashi had been spotted in the manga cafe about 200 meters from JR Kamata Station in Ota Ward.

Staff at the cafe said he came in just after 6 a.m. and drank something in an area where customers do not have to show an identity card. The cafe offers private Internet booths to customers who show ID.

Police waited until he left the establishment and approached him around 9:20 a.m. Takahashi, who was wearing a light gray half-sleeve shirt, blue jeans, brown shoes and black-framed glasses, admitted his identity and was taken to a police station.

“He did not make any attempt to flee,” a police source said.

Officers said he nodded in silence when he was told he was being arrested at the police station.

The cafe is only about 4.5 kilometers from the company dormitory in Kawasaki that Takahashi fled from 11 days ago after the arrest of his former Aum Shinrikyo associate Naoko Kikuchi.

Police knew he was a comic fan, and officers had visited manga cafes in the area, including the one where he was on June 15, during the days before his capture.

He was the last of the remaining fugitives suspected of involvement in Aum Shinrikyo's 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

Police quoted Takahashi, who is suspected of murder and attempted murder in the case, as saying of his role in the sarin attack: “I followed instructions from senior officials. I was not aware of some of the purposes.”

Police suspect that Takahashi conspired with Aum founder and death row inmate Chizuo Matsumoto, 57, formerly known as Shoko Asahara, and other members in the sarin gas attack on March 20, 1995.

The attack on the three subway lines killed 13 people and sickened more than 6,000.

Takahashi is suspected of transporting cult member Toru Toyota to Naka-Meguro subway station in Tokyo, where Toyota boarded a train and released the nerve gas during the morning rush hour.

Toyota told a court that Takahashi said “Take care” when Toyota left the car and walked off toward the station.

Takahashi, a native of Yokohama, joined Aum Shinrikyo in 1987.

When the cult set up its finance, foreign and other “ministries,” he was assigned to the intelligence ministry, which oversaw its unlawful activities. He served as an aide to Yoshihiro Inoue, the intelligence minister involved in a number of crimes committed by the cult.

Takahashi is suspected of playing an important role in the death of Kiyoshi Kariya, secretary of a Tokyo notary office, in 1995. Kariya was abducted by senior members of the cult and held at a cult facility in the now-abolished Kamikuishiki village in Yamanashi Prefecture. He died after being injected with a large amount of a drug.

Kariya’s body was burned. His bones were dissolved with nitric acid and thrown into Lake Motosuko in the prefecture.

Inoue told a court that Takahashi complained about the cult because he “felt conflicted” about disposing of Kariya’s body.

Takahashi is also suspected of involvement in an explosion at the Tokyo metropolitan government office in May 1995 and VX nerve gas attacks on three individuals between December 1994 and January 1995, in which one victim died.

He was placed on the wanted list in May 1995 with two other Aum members, Kikuchi and Makoto Hirata.

Kikuchi, 40, who was arrested on June 3 on suspicion of murder and attempted murder for helping to produce the sarin gas used in the subway attack, told police she lived with Takahashi in Kawasaki and elsewhere for about 10 years while on the run.

They left a condominium where they and other cult members had been living together in Saitama Prefecture in November 1996.

A day after Kikuchi was arrested, Takahashi fled from the construction company dormitory in Kawasaki after withdrawing 2.38 million yen ($30,000) from a community bank.

Police released video footage of Takahashi and mounted a manhunt in and around Kawasaki.

Hirata, 47, surrendered to police on Dec. 31 and was arrested in connection with Kariya’s death and other crimes.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Katsuya Takahashi, a former Aum Shinrikyo cult member, is taken away on June 15. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)

Katsuya Takahashi, a former Aum Shinrikyo cult member, is taken away on June 15. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)

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  • Katsuya Takahashi, a former Aum Shinrikyo cult member, is taken away on June 15. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)
  • A picture of a man believed to be Katsuya Takahashi that police said he submitted to his company.
  • Police caught Katsuya Takahashi at this manga cafe in Nishi-Kamata in Tokyo's Ota Ward. (Satoru Ogawa)
  • Reporters gather in front of an apartment in Kawasaki where Katsuya Takahashi is believed to have lived until the end of 2011. (The Asahi Shimbun)

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