Katsuya Takahashi, a former Aum Supreme Truth cult member sought over the March 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo's subway system, was arrested Friday in Tokyo after 17 years on the run.
Takahashi was found Friday morning at a manga cafe near JR Kamata Station in Ota Ward. The Metropolitan Police Department arrested him just after 11 a.m. on suspicion of murder and attempted murder.
The arrest of the last Aum member on a special wanted list marks a new chapter in the investigation of a series of crimes allegedly committed by the cult that shocked and horrified the nation, including sarin gas attacks in Tokyo and Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and the sending of a parcel bomb addressed to the then Tokyo governor.
Arrest warrants have been issued for Takahashi, who belonged to Aum's "intelligence ministry," in connection with five incidents involving the cult, including the sarin attacks, abduction of the chief clerk at the Meguro notary public office and the parcel bomb.
According to investigation sources, police received a call from the manga cafe in the Nishi-Kamata area at about 8:30 a.m., saying that a customer resembled Takahashi. Police officers arrived at the cafe at about 9:10 a.m. When they asked if he was Takahashi, he replied, "Yes."
Takahashi reportedly went to the cafe alone just after 6 a.m. He was carrying about 4.7 million yen (S$75,950).
He told police he stashed a bag he bought June 4, his mobile phone and clothes in a coin locker at the west exit of JR Tsurumi Station in Yokohama.
Kamata Station is one stop from JR Kawasaki Station, where his whereabouts were last confirmed.
The police asked Takahashi to come voluntarily to Kamata Police Station and compared his fingerprints with those in a database. He was then taken to MPD headquarters in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district.
Takahashi, 54, reportedly admitted to police that he was involved in the Tokyo sarin gas attack.
"I got involved at the order of a senior Aum member. I didn't know some of the purposes [of the attack]," he was quoted by police as saying.
The National Police Agency put Takahashi on the special wanted list on suspicion of murder and attempted murder in May 1995, two months after key Aum facilities were searched following the deadly subway sarin attack.
Takahashi initially laid low at an apartment in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, but he seemingly disappeared in November 1996.
After years of evading detection, the police net began to close on Takahashi after fellow Aum member Naoko Kikuchi, who also was on the special wanted list, was arrested June 3. Kikuchi had been on the run with Takahashi at one time.
Takahashi was found to have lived at a construction company's dormitory in Kawasaki Ward, Kawasaki. He went on the run on June 4 after withdrawing 2.38 million yen from a bank account.
The police released a series of photos and videos of Takahashi as they sought public assistance in their manhunt.
According to the sources, Takahashi was involved in a number of the cult's illegal activities as an aide to Yoshihiro Inoue, 42, who was head of the "intelligence ministry" and is now on death row.
According to final court decisions given to former senior Aum members, Takahashi drove Toru Toyoda, 44, who also is on death row, to Nakameguro Station in Tokyo, before Toyoda disseminated the sarin nerve gas on the Tokyo subway system. Takahashi was told to do so by Aum founder Chizuo Matsumoto, 57, also known as Shoko Asahara. Matsumoto is on death row.
Takahashi is believed to have also forced Kiyoshi Kariya, the chief clerk at the Meguro notary public office, into a van after ambushing him in February 1995.
Kariya is believed to have been forcibly taken to the cult's facility in Yamanashi Prefecture, where he died after being administered a massive dose of anesthetics.
Takahashi also is suspected of involvement in the mailing of a parcel bomb to the Tokyo governor in May that year and three VX nerve gas attacks launched from December 1994 to January 1995.