National / Crime & Legal

Osaka fugitive spun web of lies and pulled off series of thefts to masquerade as cycle tourist while on the run: police

Kyodo

A 30-year-old man, who was at large for nearly seven weeks after escaping from a police station in Osaka Prefecture in mid-August, masqueraded as a cycle tourist, spun a web of lies and stole basic goods including clothes and a bicycle, investigative sources said Wednesday.

Junya Hida, from Osaka Prefecture, had told a 44-year-old Wakayama man with whom he was traveling by bicycle that he was also from Wakayama, they said.

Osaka police suspect Hida tried to befriend the man by saying they have the same hometown, and traveled along with him to avoid appearing like a lone fugitive.

The sources said Hida made his way to Shikoku Island after fleeing a police facility on Aug. 12, and met the Wakayama man in early September at a roadside station near the border of Ehime and Kagawa prefectures.

The two then likely traveled on their bicycles to Hiroshima Prefecture via an expressway connecting Ehime and Hiroshima prefectures, and moved west to Yamaguchi Prefecture, where they camped out at a roadside station in the town of Suo-Oshima for about a week starting Sept. 18.

When recaptured Saturday in Shunan, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Hida was not in possession of the clothes he was wearing when he escaped. He is believed to have gotten rid of them and stolen outfits and daily goods for use thereafter.

He was riding a bicycle that was stolen from Habikino, Osaka Prefecture, shortly after he fled, and had with him a tent, fishing gear, clothes, a cooking pot and seasoning.

At the roadside station in Suo-Oshima, Hida left a letter he had written to the manager saying that he will “definitely accomplish the trip around Japan” on his bicycle. The letter was signed with a name in kanji characters that can be read as “Junya Sakurai,” but using characters that differ from those of his real given name.

The manager said Hida arrived on his bike and slept in a tent while he stayed in the area around Sept. 18 to 26. He had attached a piece of paper that said “currently traveling around Japan” on his bag and posed for a photo taken by the manager.

On Friday, the day before he was recaptured at a roadside station in Shunan, a suntanned man wearing shades and a black hat who looks like Hida, was caught on surveillance camera stealing bread and other merchandise at another roadside station in a nearby town some 50 kilometers away. The video came to light after Hida was recaptured.

Originally arrested in May for alleged possession of a stolen motorbike and later indicted on charges of rape, theft and robbery resulting in injury, Hida was held at the Tondabayashi Police Station on Aug. 12 when he broke out of a room where he had met with his lawyer.

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

Hida was arrested Sunday by the Osaka police on suspicion of aggravated escape, and sent to prosecutors on Monday.

The Wakayama man, who was arrested on suspicion of stealing a bicycle in his home prefecture, has told police he was aware of the news of a suspect escaping from a police station in Osaka but did not know that the person traveling with him was the fugitive.