National / Crime & Legal

Captured fugitive's traveling companion says he did not know fellow cyclist was on nationwide wanted list

Kyodo

A 30-year-old man recaptured after escaping from a police station in Osaka Prefecture in mid-August had likely been traveling on a stolen bicycle with another man who was unaware of who he was, police said Sunday.

Junya Hida was with a 44-year-old man who had been traveling by bicycle across Japan when he was arrested at a roadside rest area Saturday after having been on the run for nearly seven weeks, according to police.

He had allegedly stolen food when he was arrested at the shop in Yamaguchi Prefecture, hundreds of kilometers west of Osaka, after arriving there on a bicycle he stole in Osaka. He was arrested again Sunday by the Osaka Prefectural Police on suspicion of aggravated escape.

Hida had been with the man on a cycling trip since the two met about three weeks ago in Ehime Prefecture, though they did not spend all of that time together.

The man told Osaka police that he was aware of the news of a suspect escaping from a police station in Osaka but did not know that the person he was with was the fugitive.

According to the police, the man said he had not invited Hida to tag along with him on the trip and had found his company “annoying.”

Also Sunday, police in Yamaguchi Prefecture arrested the 44-year-old man on suspicion of stealing a bicycle in Wakayama Prefecture.

The Osaka police are investigating Hida’s movements since fleeing and other details about his escape. He has refused to answer questions since being recaptured, the police said.

Originally arrested for alleged rape and other crimes, Hida was being kept at the Tondabayashi police station when he broke out of a room where he had met with his lawyer.

He was put on a nationwide wanted list and police had mobilized about 4,000 officers to search for him.

A native of Matsubara, Osaka Prefecture, Hida apparently smashed an acrylic panel between his lawyer and himself in the meeting room of the police station and left from an unlocked door on the lawyer’s side of the partition, according to the police.

Hida was first arrested in May for allegedly being in possession of a stolen motorbike in Osaka. He was later indicted on charges of rape, theft and robbery resulting in injury, and the latest charge was attempted rape.