Police officers almost let Katsuya Takahashi, the last fugitive from the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, escape their grasp after a tip-off from the staff of the manga cafe where he was staying.
According to the cafe’s 54-year-old manager, two plain-clothes officers connected with the manhunt for Takahashi happened to come into the cafe just after a clerk had noticed the resemblance of one customer to the wanted man.
Takahashi, a suspect in the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo attack on the Tokyo subway system and other crimes, was thought by the police to be frequenting manga cafes.
The establishment in front of JR Kamata Station in Tokyo’s Ota Ward where he was eventually tracked down had become a particular focus of their inquiries. Manga cafes allow patrons to pay by the hour for booths where they can read comics and use the Internet.
One of the officers told the clerk: “We have obtained information that the suspect Takahashi came to this cafe one or two days ago. We want to check the records of your customers.”
The clerk replied: “A man who looks like him is here now.”
Police officers approached the seat where Takahashi was sitting but did not see the resemblance. After returning to the clerk, one of the police officers said: “The man is not similar to Takahashi.”
Apparently sensing something, Takahashi began to return his books and his cup, although he still had 30 minutes left on his ticket. He put the ticket on the reception counter and told the clerk that he wanted to leave.
The two police officers were standing next to him but Takahashi remained calm and went to the toilet behind the cash register.
The clerk asked the police officers: “What do you think about him? Don’t you think that he resembles Takahashi? Look at him again.”
After coming out of the toilet, Takahashi walked directly toward the exit. Seeing the back of the man, one of the officers had second thoughts and the pair pursued him out of the cafe.
On the street outside, one officer asked Takahashi: “We are now making investigations in relation to the suspect Katsuya Takahashi. Will you cooperate (with our investigation)?”
The man replied, “Yes. I am Katsuya Takahashi.”
Takahashi, whose face was dirty and had a gray stubble, remained calm while talking to the officers, according to the cafe manager.
Takahashi had entered the cafe at 6:04 a.m. on June 15. The part-time male clerk who dealt with him had been talking with a friend about 10 minutes beforehand about the possibility of the fugitive coming in.
Takahashi asked for a three-hour-stay costing 500 yen (about $6.3). The clerk asked him if he had a membership card. Takahashi replied that he did not and that he wanted to take an open seat, which would not require a membership card.
He submitted a discount voucher giving a free 30-minute extension to his stay and paid. The staff said he read comic books and newspapers, and walked around the bookshelf aisles, for about three hours.
Meanwhile, the clerk had become convinced that the customer was Takahashi. He searched for information on the fugitive on the Internet and found that Takahashi was 173 centimeters tall and was thought to be wearing a watch.
A photo of Takahashi taken with a security camera at a financial institution in Kawasaki on June 4 particularly struck the clerk because the outline of Takahashi’s face in the photograph and the length of his sideburns were extremely similar to the customer’s.
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