After the arrest on Sunday night of Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Naoko Kikuchi, who had been on the run for 17 years, police and investigators began the process of interviewing her and searching the house in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, where she lived. In addition to the details of her nearly two decades of hiding, the senior member of the cult responsible for the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin gas attack admitted that she was relieved the hiding was all over. In addition to arresting 41 year old Hiroto Takahashi, who was living with her, on the charges of harboring a known fugitive, 40 year old Kikuchi was arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder for her participation in the cult’s deadly gas attack.
Living under the alias of Chizuko Sakurai, Kikuchi worked at a nursing home, caring for the elderly, as well as doing accounting work. Her coworkers and neighbors, shocked by the news of the arrest, admit to looking back and having no idea who she really was. Only receiving an hourly pay of 850 yen (approx. $10.85), she lived and dressed very simply, just cotton pants and a tshirt, and never wore makeup. Those that new her say she was mostly quiet, and almost never talked about herself. Takahashi and Kikuchi began living together in 2006. He told police that when they met, she was already using the name Chizuko Sakurai, but did reveal her identity eventually. He states that he has no affiliation with the Aum Shinrikyo cult.
Victims of the 1995 Tokyo subway attack, which killed 13 people and injured more than 6,000 others, are already calling for Kikuchi to disclose her details of the cult and the use of sarin gas as a weapon. She has already told police that she was involved with producing the toxic nerve gas, but says she did not know what it was. Shoko Asahara, the leader of the Aum group, along with 12 other followers, have been on death row since their conviction. Their executions have been given a temporary delay, as it is expected that Kikuchi could have new information about the cult, as well as about their numerous other crimes.
Naoko Kikuchi was arrested at 8 PM on Sunday night, after they received a tip earlier that day from a woman who recognized her, police say. However, the 50 year old woman who reported seeing Kikuchi says she had called the police since last October, and that they never followed up with her. Investigators from the National Police Agency are now researching when the Kanagawa Prefectural Police actually received information about Kikuchi and her whereabouts.
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