Manhunt for Final Sarin Gas Attack Fugitive Closing In

Tokyo, Japan - Japanese police are closing in on the last remaining fugitive wanted in connection with the deadly 1995 sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway, with detectives trailing just hours behind the last known whereabouts of Katsuya Takahashi.

The search for Mr. Takahashi, a former member of the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult that was behind the attacks, has accelerated practically overnight after the arrest of another Aum fugitive, Naoko Kikuchi, earlier this week. Information from Ms. Kikuchi put police hot on Mr. Takahashi’s trail, which had gone largely cold since the late 1990s. Mr. Takahashi has been on the run for 17 years.

Authorities stormed into Mr. Takahashi’s apartment — a dorm room of the construction company he works for — in the industrial city of Kawasaki on Monday, but missed the 54-year-old fugitive by about four hours, according to Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun. Mr. Takahashi had left his room earlier that day after telling his superiors that he needed to take a week off to look after a sick family member.

The investigation and video surveillance footage has produced a photo of what one of Japan’s most-wanted criminals looks like today. Photographs released by the police Wednesday show a worn, bespectacled man. His pronounced eyebrows have thinned and his jaw line has filled out over the 17 years since police boxes and subway stations across Japan were first plastered with posters of his face.

By questioning the 40-year-old Ms. Kikuchi, authorities learned what name Mr. Takahashi had been using and where he had lived until late last year. Ms. Kikuchi shared an apartment with him for several years and the duo, posing as a married couple, used the same surname for their aliases. Mr. Takahashi had been going by the name Shinya Sakurai.

A Tokyo Metropolitan Police spokesman declined to comment on the news reports Thursday.

The spokesman said Mr. Takahashi was caught by security cameras on Monday, withdrawing ¥2.3 million from a bank account. Surveillance cameras on Monday also recorded Mr. Takahashi buying two newspapers at a convenience store and standing near Kawasaki station, according to state broadcaster NHK.

Mr. Takahashi is wanted for allegedly driving another cult member to one of the Tokyo subway stations where packets carrying the lethal gas were released during the morning rush hour on March 20, 1995. Japanese authorities say the incidents killed 13 and injured over 6,000 more.