Former AUM Shinrikyo cult member Makoto Hirata, arrested on New Year's Day after turning himself in to Tokyo police, received support from a woman he had apparently been with in the mid-1990s and others while he was on the run, investigators suspect.
Hirata has refused to talk much about how he spent nearly 17 years as a fugitive until he turned himself in to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) on New Year's Eve.
The MPD suspects that Hirata was with a 49-year-old female cult follower sometime around 1996.
The woman, who served as a nurse for the cult, allegedly helped Hirata escape from police and hide, according to investigators.
There are signs that Hirata lived with the woman at the dormitory of a restaurant in Sendai where she worked for three months until February 1996.
Since then her whereabouts has been unknown as she has not contacted her parents in her hometown in Fukushima Prefecture.
Many other high-ranking members of the cult had been on the run with female followers.
Yasuo Hayashi, 54, a high-ranking cultist who carried out the deadly subway gassing in March 1995 was with a 42-year-old female former cult member when they were arrested on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa Prefecture, in December 1996, 19 months after he was placed on a wanted list.
Hayashi, now a death row inmate, had disappeared after receiving about 1 million yen from the cult. Before going to Okinawa Prefecture, he had been hiding in a Kyoto apartment, and the woman worked at a bar in the city's Gion district to finance his living expenses.
Katsuya Takahashi, 53, and Naoko Kikuchi, 40, who are still on the run, are suspected of having hidden in an apartment in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, with other suspects, until November 1996. The room was used by the cult as a hideout.
Satoru Hirata, 46, who carried out the abduction of Kiyoshi Kariya, former chief clerk at a notary public's office, was found staying at an apartment in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, with a 52-year-old female cult follower in October 1995 and was arrested.
A high-ranking police officer explained that these cult members were helped by women to escape from police and hide.
"People tend to pay less attention to a man living with a woman and a couple can rent an apartment more easily than single people. In many cases, women worked to earn money to cover the men's living expenses to help them hide," he said.