National

Aum reportedly asked cop to case site before NPA chief was shot

A former police officer under arrest in connection with the 1995 shooting of the chief of the National Police Agency was asked by a senior female Aum Shinrikyo member to survey the shooting site five days before the attack, according to investigation sources.

Police believe the Aum member was a close aide to cult founder Shoko Asahara, the sources said. The 43-year-old woman has been convicted for playing a role in one of the crimes committed by the cult.

The Metropolitan Police Department is trying to determine whether Asahara, who is contesting a death sentence handed down in February for a series of Aum’s crimes, was also behind the March 1995 shooting of the NPA chief

The former police officer, Toshiyuki Kosugi, a one-time member of Aum, is one of four people arrested Wednesday in connection with the shooting of then NPA chief Takaji Kunimatsu.

MPD officials questioning Kosugi, 39, have quoted him as saying he contacted the woman after receiving a phone call from another senior Aum member, Yoshihiro Inoue, 34, on March 25, 1995, asking him to call the woman.

Kosugi, who was an active police officer at that time, had met the woman in 1988, when he joined the cult.

The MPD believes Aum was trying to use Kosugi’s status as a police officer for the shooting plot, the sources said.

The sources have earlier quoted Kosugi as saying he felt the cult exploited him in the shooting scheme. MPD investigators suspect an Aum “execution squad” intended to use Kosugi to enable it to get past security checks and possible police questioning.

Kosugi has been quoted as saying that he thought if he had to flee with the actual gunman, they could get by police even if stopped for questioning by flashing his police handbook.

Investigation authorities have found that a man resembling another cultist, Satoru Hashimoto, 37, who police suspect carried out the shooting, accompanied Kosugi when he visited an area outside Kunimatsu’s home in Arakawa Ward in March 1995.

Hashimoto is currently appealing a death sentence in a separate murder case.

Kosugi has told police he met with a group of men at a Tokyo subway station before going to the site and one of them resembled Hashimoto, the sources said.

According to the sources, Kosugi said he was asleep in a car at the time of the shooting and that he felt “used” by the cult.

The shooting occurred outside Kunimatsu’s home at around 8:30 a.m. March 30, 1995. Kunimatsu, who was then directing investigations into suspicions surrounding the cult, was shot three times in the abdomen and was seriously injured.

Tokyo police had launched a series of raids into Aum facilities following the March 20, 1995, deadly sarin gas attack on the subway system that killed 12 people and sickened more than 5,500.

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