Aum fugitive's neighbors knew of ¥10 million reward, but not of his quiet life in Kawasaki

Fugitive hid in city, in plain sight


Staff Writer

Police have been hunting Katsuya Takahashi since Aum Shinrikyo waged its nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, mobilizing thousands of officers over the last 17 years.

But Takahashi, 54, the final Aum fugitive wanted in the terrorist attack, lived for a decade in a quiet residential area only about 10 minutes on foot from busy JR Kawasaki Station and just across the Tama River from the capital that was once shaken by the doomsday cult.

“I didn’t know him. If I had known him, I would have got the ¥10 million reward,” said a woman on a bicycle who stopped in front of the apartment in Saiwai Ward where Takahashi lived.

The fugitive reportedly lived in the three-story apartment building for about 11 years, until last October when he moved into a construction company’s dormitory in Kawasaki Ward.

But Takahashi’s quiet life was shattered when Naoko Kikuchi, a fellow cult fugitive who once lived in the Saiwai Ward flat with him, was arrested Sunday.

Kikuchi reportedly provided information on Takahashi that forced him to flee the dorm after withdrawing ¥2.38 million in cash from his account in a small “shinkin” credit bank, also in Kawasaki, Monday.

Media reports say he also showed up briefly Monday at the construction company’s office. His whereabouts since being seen in a surveillance camera at the bank near the company is unknown.

The Metropolitan Police Department deployed 5,000 officers in Tokyo on Friday for the manhunt.

Takahashi is wanted for allegedly driving one of the sarin-carrying cultists to a subway station before the gassing.

Meanwhile, the media also continued to attempt to collect information on Takahashi.

People living in the Saiwai Ward building’s eight other apartments have apparently grown tired of — or even scared by — reporters hounding them since earlier this week.

A sheet of paper was pinned below the name plate at the apartment’s entrance gate. Addressed to the media, it said: “Our people who know about (Takahashi) are feeling ill and cannot handle reporters’ questioning. Please leave right away.”

The message, apparently written by the landlord, also called on reporters to behave with common sense and not disturb the neighbors.

“I have nothing to say,” an elderly woman living next to the building said. “I didn’t know him or remember seeing him.”

Five minutes by bus from Kawasaki Station, the Oshima 1-chome bus stop is right in front of the construction company that Takahashi worked for.

At 11 a.m. Friday some 20 reporters, with seven TV cameras, were staking out the company.

Three or four people walked down the stairs to the front door on the second floor of the building between 10:45 and 11:15 a.m. Every time people appeared in front of the door, TV crews and reporters stormed upstairs to the door, only to get no comment.

The Japan Times called the firm, whose name is being withheld, to ask if it was employing Shinya Sakurai, the name Takahashi was using, but an official declined comment. Video footage released by police suggest Takahashi was last seen at the building and the bank Monday afternoon.

Kyodo, citing unnamed sources, reported Takahashi had more than ¥10 million in multiple bank accounts as of Sunday when Kikuchi was arrested.