LAST AUM SHINROKYO CULT FUGITIVES CAPTURED

LAST AUM FUGITIVE KATSUYA TAKAHASHI NABBED

In June 2012, Kyodo reported: “Katsuya Takahashi, the final fugitive wanted over Aum Shinrikyo's 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system, was apprehended at a manga cafe in Tokyo, police said. Takahashi, 54, was served with an arrest warrant for murder and attempted murder after his identity was verified by fingerprints. The fugitive was seized at a manga cafe about 150 meters from Kamata Station in Ota Ward and taken into custody. He was later transported to Tokyo police headquarters for questioning. "I can't express how I feel right now in words. I can't deny that I disturbed the public, and I feel morally responsible for that," Takahashi reportedly told investigators later in the day. [Source: Kyodo, June 16, 2012]

“The arrest ended 17 years on the lam. He was put on a special wanted list in May 1995 over his alleged involvement in the Tokyo subway sarin attack, which killed 13 and made more than 6,000 others ill. After his arrest, officers recovered a bag Takahashi had stored in a coin locker at JR Tsurumi Station in Kawasaki with more than 10 books on Aum inside, police sources said. Takahashi was found just across the Tama River from Kawasaki, where he was living and working until the June 3 arrest earlier of fellow 17-year cult fugitive Naoko Kikuchi, who lived with him at various times. [Ibid]

“The police said they received a tip around 8:30 a.m. that a man matching Takahashi's description was in the manga cafe. He was approached by investigators as he exited the shop at around 9:20 a.m. When one of them asked if he was Takahashi, he replied "Yes," the police said. He had entered the cafe shortly after 6 a.m. Takahashi told investigators he had several million yen on him when he was apprehended. He also had a black business bag and a brown bag, the police said. [Ibid]

“His arrest followed the June 3 collar of Kikuchi, who is also suspected of involvement in the subway attack. The break led to the police learning that Takahashi was working for a construction firm in Kawasaki and that he withdrew about ¥2.38 million from a bank before fleeing. The police mounted a large-scale manhunt to catch Takahashi, releasing security camera images of him to the media and deploying investigators at train stations and elsewhere. There was also a ¥10 million reward on him. [Ibid]

“The cult's three final fugitives' days on the run were numbered. First Makoto Hirata, 47, turned himself in on New Year's Eve. Kikuchi was found June 3 in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, after a tipoff. Takahashi is alleged to have conspired with cult founder Shoko Asahara, 57, over the gas attack on the Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995. Thirteen people, including Asahara, are on death row over the gas attack and other crimes the cult committed.

Takahashi Served in Aum Inner Circle

Katsuya Takahashi belonged to the "intelligence ministry," the Aum Supreme Truth’s innermost circle, is believed to have had a hand in many of the illegal and sometimes deadly activities of the cult, including acting as a driver during the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system under the direct order of cult founder Chizuo Matsumoto. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, June 16, 2012]

“After a childhood in Kohoku Ward, Yokohama, Takahashi graduated from a technical college in 1979 and worked for a short time at an electronic device company. After quitting his job in 1980, he became an Aum member and in July 1987 left home to live at a cult facility. According to police and other sources, he initially belonged to the "SPS special security unit" that was in charge of guarding Matsumoto, and moved to the intelligence ministry when the cult reorganized in June 1994. Takahashi was a close aide to "intelligence minister" Yoshihiro Inoue, 42 and also on death row, and was in a position to observe Aum's darker side. [Ibid]

“The final ruling in Matsumoto's capital case stated that the cult founder had ordered Takahashi to drive Toru Toyoda to Nakameguro Station on the Hibiya subway line. Takahashi reportedly learned about the plan from Inoue before the gas attack. Toyoda has been sentenced to death for releasing liquid sarin on the subway. Takahashi reportedly was also the driver when cult members abducted Kiyoshi Kariya, 68, the chief clerk at the Meguro notary public office, in February 1995, and was involved in three VX nerve gas attacks including by waiting to ambush victims. [Ibid]

Tip Leads to Takahashi’s Capture

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Metropolitan Police Department officials raided a manga cafe in Ota Ward, Tokyo, after receiving a tip from an employee of the cafe who reported a man who looked like Takahashi was there. Police received the tip at about 8:30 a.m.. When an investigator asked if he was Takahashi, he allegedly said, "Yes." Takahashi, who had been on the run for about 17 years and three months, had a stubbly beard and was wearing a light gray short-sleeved polo shirt, jeans and brown shoes. Police said he was carrying a brown overnight bag and a black bag.He told police he had about 4.7 million yen in cash. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, June 16, 2012]

“The cafe is in an entertainment district near JR Kamata Station, about five kilometers from the construction company dormitory in Kawasaki Ward, Kawasaki, where Takahashi stayed until June 4. Kamata Station is only one stop from JR Kawasaki Station, where police lost Takahashi's trail. Customers are required to show ID to use private rooms in the cafe, but do not need to show it to use its open area, according to a former employee of the cafe. There are 30 private rooms and 30 open area seats in the cafe. [Ibid]

Takahashi’s Years on the Run

According to investigators, Takahashi fled an Aum facility in Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture, with other members, including death-row inmates Yoshihiro Inoue and Yasuo Hayashi, shortly after the gas attack on the Tokyo subway system on March 20, 1995.They hid at a hotel in Nagatoro, Saitama Prefecture. The three reportedly hid several kilograms of sodium cyanide in a mountainous area of Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, in early April 1995. The cyanide was later used in cyanide gas attack attempts at Shinjuku Station on the Marunouchi subway line. [Ibid]

“In November 1996, Takahashi joined Kikuchi and hid in an apartment in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture. When police raided the apartment, only a sleeping bag with Takahashi's cult name on it was left behind. After that, Takahashi and Kikuchi moved from place to place, such as love hotels in Yokohama and Kawasaki.Around 1997, they pretended to be cousins under the aliases Shinya Sakurai and Chizuko Sakurai to move into a condominium in Kawasaki Ward, Kawasaki. In July 2001, they moved into a two-bedroom condominium in Saiwai Ward, Kawasaki. [Ibid]

“After Kikuchi moved out to live with her boyfriend in the spring of 2007, Takahashi continued living there alone. Kikuchi's boyfriend has been arrested on suspicion of harboring her. In October 2011, Takahashi moved into a dormitory of the construction company where he worked. On June 3, when Kikuchi was arrested, Takahashi worked the night shift. On the morning of June 4, when he returned to the dormitory, Takahashi was told by a coworker that Kikuchi had been arrested. He then went to a nearby convenience store and bought newspapers to read about Kikuchi's arrest. Takahashi went to a local shinkin bank near the dormitory that afternoon and withdrew 2.38 million yen and later bought a bag at a supermarket. At about 3 p.m., he took a taxi from the dormitory to Kawasaki Station. He left the bag in a coin locker at Tsurumi Station in Yokohama, according to police. [Ibid]

“Regarding his many years as a fugitive, Takahashi was quoted by the police as saying, "People who commit serious crimes are different from people who commit minor crimes." Takahashi has not expressed any remorse toward the gas attack victims, according to the police. [Ibid]

Takahashi Practices Aum Rituals in Prison

After Takahashi was arrested, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Takahashi ‘sits in his police cell in the lotus position and chants a cult mantra, according to investigative sources. He uses specific terms associated with the cult to answer investigators, including such remarks as "I was arrested because of karma," according to police. The word karma, meaning cosmic justice, was commonly used in the cult's religious training. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, June 19, 2012]

“Takahashi sometimes performs a typical cult ritual called "ritsui reihai," according to the sources. This practice of prayer, also employed by Tibetan Buddhists, involves a person throwing his body forward to the ground then resuming a standing position. According to police, Takahashi sat in the lotus position and chanted words from the cult's mantra after returning to his holding cell in the MPD's Akasaka Police Station following police questioning. [Ibid]

“It has also been discovered that one of the photos in Takahashi's possession was taken with Matsumoto around 1987 when Takahashi joined the cult. It shows Matsumoto standing next to Takahashi, putting his hand on his head, police said. Takahashi reportedly carried these photos with him even after he left his construction company's dormitory in Kawasaki on June 4. A dozen books related to the cult, including "Initiation," written by Matsumoto, and a tape of Matsumoto's preaching were also found in his belongings. [Ibid]

“The MPD believes Takahashi has not lost faith in the cult during his 17-year life on the run and still regularly performs the group's rituals. [Ibid]

Another Aum Fugitive, Naoko Kikuchi, Arrested after 17 Years at Large

About two weeks before Takahashi was arrested,Naoko Kikuchi, another former member of the Aum Supreme Truth cult who was on the run for about 17 years, was been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the 1995 sarin gas attack in Tokyo. Kikuchi, 40, was found in Sagamihara, where she lived with a 41-year-old man. Police arrested the man, Hiroto Takahashi, on suspicion of harboring Kikuchi from late December 2010. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, June 5, 2012]

“According to the Yomiuri Shimbun: “The two reportedly started living in Sagamihara about 1-1/2 years ago. Kikuchi was engaged in nursing care services under a false name, "Chizuko Sakurai." According to senior MPD officials, a person connected with Hiroto Takahashi visited the MPD's headquarters and said the woman living with Takahashi resembled Kikuchi. When investigators were surveilling the building where Takahashi lives, Kikuchi returned there at about 8 p.m.. Asked if she was Kikuchi, she replied, "Yes," the officials said. [Ibid]

“Takahashi surrendered himself to the Yamato Police Station in Kanagawa Prefecture at about 10:15 p.m., reportedly saying, "I'm the person who lived with Naoko Kikuchi, who has been in the news." He said he was never an Aum member. He reportedly became acquainted with Kikuchi, who identified herself as Chizuko Sakurai, around 2005 when he was a temp worker at a company in Yokohama, after which he started dating her. About six months later, he proposed to her, but Kikuchi told him: "I can't marry you. I'm Naoko Kikuchi," Takahashi was quoted by police as saying. [Ibid]

“The two started living together around 2006. Before moving to Sagamihara, they lived at an apartment in Machida, Tokyo, for about four years, according to the police. Kikuchi is suspected of having helped Masami Tsuchiya, 47, Seiichi Endo, 51, and other cult members produce the sarin gas used in the 1995 Tokyo attack. Both Tsuchiya, who was on Aum's chemical team, and Endo, described as the cult's "health and welfare minister," have been sentenced to death. After her arrest, Kikuchi reportedly told investigators: "It's true I was involved in producing sarin gas, but I didn't know what I was making at that time...I'm relieved now because I don't have to run anymore under a false name. I'm sorry for causing trouble to many people.” [Ibid]

Kikuchi’s Years on the Run

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Kikuchi, who reportedly had a good deal of knowledge about chemicals, was a member of Aum's "health and welfare ministry." Police had issued arrest warrants for her on suspicion of attempted murder by mailing a parcel bomb to the office of then Tokyo Gov. Yukio Aoshima as well as on suspicion of involvement in an attempted cyanide gas attack at a public toilet in Shinjuku Station on the Marunouchi subway line. Both incidents took place in May 1995. [Ibid]

“Kikuchi fled before police raided Aum's facilities in Yamanashi Prefecture in March 1995. She reportedly hid at an apartment in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, for about a month from May 1995 with senior Aum member Yasuo Hayashi, 54, who has been sentenced to death for his role in the 1995 sarin gas attack. [Ibid]

“She then moved to an apartment in Nagoya around October 1995, where she lived with another Aum member. After that, Kikuchi hid at an apartment in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, with a different cult member, but her whereabouts had been unknown since around November 1996. Located off a main road, the two-story rusty tin house where Kikuchi lived until her capture is surrounded by farmland. "Hiroto Takahashi" is written on the mailbox. [Ibid]

“Kikuchi worked and lived a fairly normal life despite the fact that her wanted photo was widely distributed. She managed to hide in plain sight while working as a bookkeeper and nursing caregiver and living with a man. According to a 37-year-old male employee at a home-visit, nursing-care service company for which Kikuchi worked, she visited four or five places, the day of her arrest, to take care of elderly people beginning at 10:30 a.m. and cleaned a facility for elderly people. [Ibid]

“The employee said Kikuchi started to work at the company about two years ago. She was hired as a bookkeeper through Hiroto Takahashi, 41, who was an acquaintance of the president of the company. During a job interview, Kikuchi allegedly said she would be 44 years old in that year and identified herself as Chizuko Sakurai. Kikuchi acquired a qualification of second-class caregiver in January 2012. She worked six days a week--doing the bookkeeping job in a room rented from a construction company next to her house for four days and working as a caregiver at a facility for elderly people, located about two kilometers southwest of her house, for the remaining two days. [Ibid]

“Kikuchi commuted to the facility by bus and took care of elderly people by doing such things as helping them go to the toilet and serving food to them, according to the employee. She worked for about 40 hours a week for 850 yen per hour. She was off every Saturday. The employee said: "I've never seen Kikuchi wearing makeup. She was always wearing simple clothes like a T-shirt and cotton pants with a blue apron. Her reputation among care-receivers was not bad." Kikuchi was quoted by the employee as saying she would like to work there as long as possible. [Ibid]

“According to a female staff member at a local hospital in charge of taking medical care of the elderly people living in the facility Kikuchi worked at, she was friendly and did her jobs without complaint. Kikuchi carried name cards that said "Bookkeeper Chizuko Sakurai," according to the woman. Kikuchi was seen around her house wearing sweatsuits without any face covering. A man who lives in her neighborhood said, "They looked like a happy couple.” [Ibid]

“Takahashi was quoted by the police as saying, "I thought she was the real [Naoko Kikuchi] when I saw the mole below her right eye. I checked out her photo on the Internet." A senior official at the MPD said, "He [Takahashi] didn't notify police probably because he was in love with her."Meanwhile, it has been learned that a female company employee, 54, who lives near Kikuchi's house, reported to Kanagawa prefectural police in December that she had seen a woman whose eyes resembled those of a wanted woman who belonged to Aum. The MPD has started looking into the report to determine if there were any problems in dealing with the information. [Ibid]

Aum Shinrikyo Cult Fugitive Turns Himself in after 16 Years

In late December 2011, Aum member Makoto Hirata turned himself in to police after 16 years on the run a Tokyo metropolitan police official said. Hirata conspired with several other cult members in kidnapping a notary official in 1995 and causing his death. The victim, Kiyoshi Kariya, then 68, was the brother of a follower trying to quit the group. AP reported: Hirata , 46, who had been on the run since the summer of 1995, turned himself in at a Tokyo police station and was detained early on Sunday, the police official said. [Source: Associated Press, January 1, 2012]

Public broadcaster NHK said Hirata told police he wanted to "put the past behind him". According to the Yomiuri Shimbun Hirata claimed shame had led him to turn himself in after he witnessed the misery caused by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami. "The senseless scenes from Tohoku after the earthquake made me question by own situation," he was quoted as telling Taro Takimoto, a lawyer who helped people leave the cult, and who agreed to meet the suspect in custody. "I decided I would turn myself in before the year was up." [Source: Justin McCurry, The Guardian, January 4, 2012]

Police suspect Hirata's decision was influenced by the death last July of his mother, to whom he was very close. "I wanted a sense of closure," the Yomiuri Shimbun quoted him saying. In the few reported comments he has made to investigators, Hirata appears to be trying to distance himself from the cult. He reportedly told Takimoto, who was injured in a separate sarin attack in 1994, that he no longer believed in the teachings of Asahara, adding that the former guru deserved to be hanged.

Police say Hirata and other cult members kidnapped Kariya off a Tokyo street and held him at the group's tightly guarded commune at the foot of Mount Fuji. They allegedly used anaesthetics on Kariya to get him to talk about his sister, who escaped from the group after being pressed to donate her land. Kariya died from a drug overdose, police said. According to court testimony, cult members burned Kariya's body in an incinerator in the commune and threw the ashes in a nearby lake to destroy the evidence. Hirata's arrest could help fill in missing pieces of the investigation. "As a member of the victim's family, I just want to know the truth," Kariya's son Minoru said in a televised interview. "I hope the new witness will help bring new revelations." [Source: Associated Press, January 1, 2012]

Hirata was one of the last three wanted cult members. The other two are still at large. Hirata told police he only drove Kariya to the cult compound and denied other allegations, NHK said. According to explanations of sentences given to senior cult members, Hirata only had supporting roles, such as driving the car used in Kariya's abduction.While Hirata belonged to the cult's "vehicle ministry," he was not a "senior" member, according to investigation sources."He was only used when it was necessary," a senior investigator said.

Hirata has been tied to a a time-bomb explosion at a Tokyo apartment building. He is also suspected in the near-fatal shooting of Japan's then top police chief, but the high-profile case was closed last year after the statute of limitations expired. Hirata is not thought to have taken part in the sarin gas attacks in March 1995.

Aum Fugitive Was Turned Away from Tokyo Police Station

Justin McCurry wrote in The Guardian: A simple change of heart during the few minutes' walk from one Tokyo police station to another could have kept Makoto Hirata, one of Japan's most wanted men, at large indefinitely. It has emerged that Hirata, a former member of the Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult, was sent away by the officer on duty when he first tried to turn himself in, late on New Year's Eve. The policeman thought it was a prank. [Source: Justin McCurry, The Guardian, January 4, 2012]

According to media reports, the 46-year-old suspect was arrested only after he walked, at the officer's urging, to a smaller police station several hundred metres away. Hirata's hair was longer than in photographs taken in the mid-1990s but his facial features and physique had barely changed during the years in hiding. "He apparently hasn't had any plastic surgery," a police source told the Yomiuri Shimbun daily.

Dressed in jeans and a quilted jacket, he was carrying a rucksack containing underwear, clothes, shampoo and other items. "He was as neat as a pin," one officer was quoted as saying. He reportedly refused to explain the 100,000 yen (£834) in cash found in his possession, although he is understood to have received 10m yen from the cult shortly after the attacks.

Makoto Hirata’s Trial and the Effect of His Arrest on the Execution of the Aum Members

The arrest of Hirata may affect the death penalty schedules of 13 Aum death-row inmates including Matsumoto. In principle, the Justice Ministry postpones the execution of a death-row inmate during an accomplice's trial as there is a possibility the inmate will be called as a witness in the trial. It appeared that all criminal trials related to the cult had ended in November last year when the Supreme Court rejected an appeal against the death sentence for Seiichi Endo over his involvement in the sarin gas attack. The focus has now shifted to when executions of the 13 inmates will be carried out.

Given the latest development, some of those involved in the Aum cases suspect a plan to delay the executions. "The timing [of his surrender] is too good. I suspect this is an operation to avoid the execution of Matsumoto and others," a senior member of the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office said.

A veteran criminal trial judge predicts, "If Hirata's defense counsel argues, 'The execution of Matsumoto's death penalty should be stayed as Matsumoto may honestly testify in court,' the execution will be affected." The executions will ultimately be left to the justice minister. "If the justice minister at that time is reluctant to impose the death penalty, it is possible the minister will use this development as an excuse not to approve the execution," a senior ministry official said.

Yet, some argue the arrest of Hirata must not be taken into consideration in the execution of Matsumoto. In the Kariya abduction case, almost the entire picture has been made clear based on the testimonies of former senior cult members and it would be unnecessary to use Matsumoto as a witness, they argue. Matsumoto reportedly did not give instructions directly to Hirata in the case. "It is inconceivable the degree of Hirata's punishment will change with Matsumoto's testimony," another senior ministry official said. "Hirata's arrest should not be a factor in delaying Matsumoto's execution."

Hirata may face a lay judge trial. Should Hirata be indicted for his involvement in a time-bomb explosion at a Tokyo apartment building and the abduction, confinement and murder of Kiyoshi Kariya, chief clerk at a Tokyo notary office, his case may be the first Aum-related trial to feature lay judges. If prosecutors or the defense call for Hirata's case to be exempted from lay judge trial on grounds that it could endanger judges and their relatives, Hirata will be tried only by professional judges--provided the claim is accepted by a court. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, January 4, 2012]

However, the likelihood that Hirata, 46, will be tried under the lay judge system is high. "To win the exemption, they need to prove possible risks to lay judges specifically. It's highly unlikely that a call for the exemption will be accepted," one experienced judge said.

According to the final rulings for former cult members believed to be Hirata's accomplices, Aum initially planned to have Hirata, whose shooting skills were recognized by the cult, blind Kariya's bodyguard with an Aum-manufactured laser gun. However, the plan was changed so that Hirata served as the getaway driver when his accomplices snatched Kariya and fled the crime scene in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo. In the Kariya case, some marginally involved Aum members were not charged with murder, and were only charged with Kariya's abduction and confinement.

In the explosion at an apartment building in Suginami Ward, Tokyo, Hirata was allegedly instructed by Yoshihiro Inoue, 42, to inspect the scene after the explosion. Inoue's death sentence has since been finalized. If the defense focuses on facts presented in the indictment, Inoue and other former Aum members now on death row could be called up as witnesses in Hirata's trial.

Makoto Hirata’s Years on the Run

Only sketchy details have emerged of Hirata's life as a fugitive since his arrest. How Hirata managed to evade detection for so long remains a mystery. The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: While he said he was not employed, Hirata reportedly did not tell investigators where he obtained about 100,000 yen that was found in his possession. "It would have been impossible for him to support himself while on the run for 17 years. There must be somebody who supported him," a senior MPD official said. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, January 4, 2012]

Police failed to discover Hirata's location despite obtaining information that he was hiding in the Tohoku region with a female cult member. It has been learned that Hirata obtained 10 million yen from the cult in 1995 which he is believed to have used to keep himself hidden from authorities.

Sources say Hirata has not told investigators about his life as a fugitive, because "It would cause other people trouble."

"Hirata was a mama's boy," according to a source close to the investigation, and his mother had been worried about him. In October 2001, she received a call from a man believed to be Hirata. "Mako-chan, where are you now?" she reportedly asked the man who went silent and then hung up the phone.

Hirata’s Life on the Run According to His Partner

Former Aum Supreme truth cult member Makoto Hirata has remained silent about his relations with the group during police questioning, according to investigative sources. He reportedly told his interrogators he continued to meditate and chant a mantra while burning incense during his nearly 17-year life on the run. A senior investigator said hirata may still be under the influence of brainwashing he underwent at the hands of the cult. Hirata reportedly became upset when an investigator referred to Chizuo Matsumoto, the real name of Aum founder and death row inmate Shoko Asahara. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, January 23, 2012]

Hirata, 46, and Akemi Saito, the 49-year-old former Aum member who sheltered him, have started explaining their life on the run to investigators of the Metropolitan Police Department, the sources said. In March 1995, Hirata reportedly received 10 million yen from the cult to finance his life on the run and left for the Tohoku region with Saito. They said they stayed at hot spring inns in the Tohoku region, spending 5 million yen in 1995 alone, according to the sources.

In February 1996, they moved to Osaka, and Saito worked at a pub in the Tenjinbashisuji shopping street for about one year. In 1997, a person close to the pub informed police at a nearby koban about Saito after becoming suspicious about her behavior. But by then, Saito had already quit the pub and disappeared. In the city of Higashi-Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, they successfully blended into a local community, they reportedly told investigators. Saito became friends with colleagues and clients at an osteopathic clinic she worked at and went skiing in Hokkaido with them. Hirata, who reportedly did not go out with Saito, sometimes walked outdoors alone around his house. About her life on the run with Hirata, Saito said, "It was inconvenient, but I felt fairly happy."

As to why he tuned himself in to police, Hirata reportedly said the statute of limitations in the 1995 shooting of then National Police Agency Commissioner General Takaji Kunimatsu had run out in March 2010 and the occurrence of the Great East Japan Earthquake also affected his decision.Asked why he turned himself in to police on Dec. 31, Hirata was quoted as saying, "Because I wanted to be beside my rabbit when it died." According to sources, the rabbit died last August. Among photos Saito submitted to the police, there was a photo of Hirata and a rabbit. However, a senior investigator doubted that explanation, saying: "When Hirata turned himself in to police, he repeatedly said he wanted to be arrested by the end of 2011. It's difficult to believe the death of his rabbit was the only reason."

When the cult was mentioned during interrogation, Hirata suddenly became silent or made remarks that appeared to defend it. Hirata became very upset during an interrogation when he heard the name Chizuo Matsumoto, saying, "Stop it!" according to the sources. Hirata told police he had no contact with the cult at all during his life as a fugitive. But some former aum leaders told police it would have been impossible for two people to remain on the run for nearly 17 years without support from others. A senior investigator said: "It's very likely Hirata has been completely brainwashed. We'll have to investigate what support he may have received from the cult."

Image Sources: YouTube

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated August 2012

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