DNA on coin links Aum to shooting

The Yomiuri Shimbun/March 28, 2009

DNA detected on a South Korean coin left at the scene of the 1995 shooting of then National Police Agency Commissioner General Takaji Kunimatsu was found to be that of a 37-year-old former member of the Aum Supreme Truth cult, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Because only a year remains until the statute of limitations runs out on the attempted murder case, the Metropolitan Police Department has redoubled its efforts to determine whether the attacker is the former Aum member.

Kunimatsu, 71, was seriously injured after being shot in front of his condominium in Arakawa Ward, Tokyo, on the morning of March 30, 1995, 10 days after the cult's sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

According to sources close to the MPD, the 10-won coin was found under a bush on the grounds of the condominium shortly after the incident. As a result of the analysis, human sebum attached to the coin matched the mitochondrial DNA of the former Aum member who belonged to the cult's "construction ministry" division.

The police believe the attacker may have been waiting near the bush to ambush Kunimatsu. A North Korean People's Army pin also was found there after the attack.

The former cult member was working under the instructions of Kiyohide Hayakawa, 59, the cult's then "construction minister," and planning a tour of shooting ranges in Russia from April 1994 to October 1994.

Hayakawa, who was sentenced to death for murder, is appealing to the Supreme Court.

Without identifying a principal culprit, the MPD arrested four people related to the attack on Kunimatsu, including a then officer of the MPD who was an Aum member, on suspicion of attempted murder. However, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office dropped the case due to insufficient evidence.

The MPD then questioned Hayakawa and the former cult member whose mitochondrial DNA was identical to that left on the coin, but the two denied their involvement in the case and said they were not at the scene of the attack.

Compared with nuclear DNA analysis, which is 99.9 percent accurate in identification, mitochondrial DNA reflects only matrilineal genetic information and is not as accurate.

Since the coin may have been touched by a number of people, the analysis would not provide conclusive evidence of the attacker's identity. The MPD plans to question people connected to the cult shortly.

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