Informants to split ¥10 million bounty on fugitive


Police plan to split the ¥10 million reward among multiple informants who helped lead to the Tuesday evening collar of Tatsuya Ichihashi in Osaka, marking the first such payout since the bounty system was introduced in April 2007, a National Police Agency official said.

The ¥10 million is the highest offered among the 17 cases for which the NPA currently offers bounties, ranging from ¥1 million for information about identified suspects to ¥3 million for those who are unidentified.

Though thought to be a somewhat difficult practice to gain acceptance, the NPA turned to the system to resolve the apparent lack of information on crimes amid an increasing number of unsolved cases, said Akio Kuroki, a freelance journalist with 23 years of service at the Metropolitan Police Department.

“The largest contributor to his arrest is a photo of Ichihashi’s face, not the bounty. But having the bounty is better than not having it because that gave the media one more reason to cover the case and publish the photo,” Kuroki said.

However, the bounty also prompted many useless leads, he said. Chiba police were flooded with 9,500 tips seemingly related to Ichihashi, a police official said.

“That must have kept Chiba police unnecessarily busy,” Kuroki said.

A reward is also being offered in the case of a 7-year-old girl in Tochigi Prefecture who was kidnapped and found dead in Ibaraki Prefecture in December 2005. Another involves a family of four in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward who were stabbed to death in their home in December 2000. Because there are no suspects, the amount of the reward is ¥3 million in both cases.

In the Ichihashi case, Chiba police will select those who are eligible for the bounty, which will be paid out by the NPA, the NPA official said.

Kuroki said a large sum should be paid to the person at the ferry terminal at Nanko port in Suminoe Ward, Osaka, who tipped off police Tuesday evening. The doctor in Nagoya who provided a photo of the suspect after plastic surgery was performed is also in line for a hefty reward.

In March 2007, six police officers who knew Ichihashi had been stalking Lindsay Ann Hawker, 22, an English teacher for the now-defunct Nova conversation school, went to Ichihashi’s apartment in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, and found her body in a sand-filled bathtub on the balcony. Ichihashi, who was there, managed to escape the scene barefoot.

“The fact that six officers were there means they must have had a compelling reason to fear Hawker was in danger. Letting Ichihashi escape is a major screw-up for police,” Kuroki said. “The police must have badly wanted to catch him. That is probably why the bounty was increased to ¥10 million.”

“Also, police will get Ichihashi to tell them the names of the plastic surgeons who performed the surgeries on him. Reportedly, he had about eight surgeries,” Kuroki said. “Some of the surgeons may not be properly licensed, or may have known Ichihashi was wanted but performed surgery for the money.”

“Police will have to do something about them. Otherwise, they cannot prevent similar cases,” he added.