National / Crime & Legal

Osaka fugitive, on the run since mid-August, is arrested for stealing food in Yamaguchi Prefecture

Kyodo

A 30-year-old fugitive who escaped from a police station in Osaka Prefecture in mid-August has been arrested in Shunan, Yamaguchi Prefecture, for shoplifting rice cakes and other food at a roadside rest area after 48 days on the run, investigative sources said Saturday.

Junya Hida disappeared from Tondabayashi police station in the suburbs of the city of Osaka after his 30-minute meeting with his lawyer on Aug. 12.

A roadside security camera, installed on the south side of the station, showed a man matching his appearance and wearing similar clothing shortly after Hida absconded.

Hida has been indicted on charges of rape and theft and as well as robbery resulting in injury.

Hida met with his attorney in the visiting room from around 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 12. When an officer checked the room at around 9:45 p.m., Hida was not in it and had disappeared. He is believed to have escaped by kicking down the acrylic partition in the meeting room and leaving through the same entrance the lawyer had used.

The batteries inside an alarm on the door of the meeting room at the station had been removed as officers thought the device was unnecessary because visiting lawyers normally notify an attending officer when they are about to leave.

Hida told his lawyer after a 30-minute consultation around 8 p.m. that he would notify the officers about the end of the meeting so the lawyer did not bother to do so, the police said.

At the time, two police officers were on duty outside the meeting room on the second floor of the police station, but none of them entered the room next to where the two met, as is usual during the night and at weekends.

Initial notification of Hida’s escape was not made until about nine hours later, and it then took another seven hours before the city of Tondabayashi was asked to warn the public through its community wireless system.

Before becoming a fugitive, Hida was also indicted over incidents, including rape and robberies, in the cities of Osaka, Yao and elsewhere, and the latest charge was attempted rape.

Some 4,000 police officers have been searching for Hida since he fled.