Last Aum fugitive Takahashi nabbed

Public enemy No. 1 arrested at Tokyo manga cafe following tipoff


Katsuya Takahashi, the final fugitive wanted over Aum Shinrikyo’s 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system, was apprehended Friday morning at a manga cafe in the capital, 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.

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 subway 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.

The police will now try to prove Takahashi was involved in Aum’s crimes and investigate his life on the run, as well as how he managed to build up large amounts of savings and whether he received any organizational support while on the run.

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.

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.

On hearing about the final fugitive’s arrest, Shizue Takahashi, 65, who lost her husband in the Tokyo subway gassing and heads a group of victims’ families, said she had been praying since Kikuchi was apprehended that Takahashi also would be caught soon.

“I’m sure the two knew from media reports how much the victims suffered. But they continued to run, and that makes them the worst” of Aum’s members, she said, adding she and other families of the victims are willing to participate in their trials.

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.