Unraveling Aum’s crimes

On June 3, the Metropolitan Police Department arrested former Aum Shinrikyo cult member Ms. Naoko Kikuchi, who was on the wanted list for her suspected involvement in the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system. She was living in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Her arrest followed the arrest of former Aum leader Mr. Makoto Hirata, who surrendered to the MPD on Dec. 31. Investigative sources on June 5 disclosed that Mr. Katsuya Takahashi, the last Aum fugitive on the run, likely lived in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, until late last year and may still be there.

Given her minor role in the cult, it is unlikely that Ms. Kikuchi will reveal surprising facts. But many points remain unclear about the cult’s crimes.

A total of 189 people have been tried in connection with the cult’s crimes and the death sentences for the Aum Shinrikyo founder and top leader Shoko Asahara and 12 others have been finalized. The biggest question held by victims of the crimes and relatives of the dead victims is why Aum Shinrikyo members committed such crimes.

It is hoped that the police will do their best to build a full picture of Aum Shinrikyo’s crimes. It is also hoped that they will uncover the details of Ms. Kikuchi’s life as a fugitive and make strenuous efforts to arrest Mr. Takahashi. Investigators had known that they hid together in Tokorozawa until November 1996 but didn’t know what happened to them after that.

Mr. Hiroto Takahashi, who lived with Ms. Kikuchi in Sagamihara and was arrested on suspicion of hiding her, told the police that he met Mr. Katsuya Takahashi about two years ago in an apartment in Saiwai Ward, Kawasaki, and learned about his life as a fugitive.

The police believe that Mr. Katsuya Takahashi and Ms. Kikuchi lived in the Kawasaki apartment until around 2006. Mr. Takahashi used a pseudonym Shinya Sakurai. Ms. Kikuchi became acquainted with Mr. Hiroto Takahashi at a workplace in Yokohama and later began living with him in Machida, Tokyo.

Subsequently they moved to Sagamihara. Ms. Kikuchi worked as a helper providing nursing care to elderly people under the pseudonym Chizuko Sakurai.

The police need to find out who Ms. Kikuchi had contact with, how she raised the funds to flee and whether she received support from the cult while on the run. They also have to carefully handle tips from citizens.

It has been reported that the Sagamihara Minami police station did not act on a tip received last autumn that a person resembling Ms. Kikuchi was living in the city.