Home / World News / Prison escapee caught after huge manhunt which gripped Japan

Prison escapee caught after huge manhunt which gripped Japan

A convicted thief has been recaptured three weeks after escaping from an open prison, during which time he apparently swam from an island and hid in vacant houses to evade detection.

More than 1,000 police officers searched for Tatsuma Hirao on the Japanese island of Mukaishima, which has a similar number of vacant houses because of its ageing and shrinking population.

It is thought he arrived on Mukaishima by driving a stolen car along a highway connecting several islands after escaping from a low-security jail in neighbouring Ehime prefecture.

The 27-year-old’s escape caused regional anxiety and drew national attention before he was finally detained in Hiroshima.

Broadcaster NHK said he hid in empty properties but became tired of evading police.

Officers said his fingerprints had been found at the scenes of several reported thefts of clothes and food.

Tatsuma Hirao is escorted as he leaves a police department in Hiroshima
Image:
Tatsuma Hirao is escorted as he leaves a police department in Hiroshima

According to media reports, he told police he swam the 200 metres from Mukaishima to the Hiroshima prefecture coast, before taking a train to Hiroshima city.

In a video of the arrest broadcast on TV Asahi, a man identified as Hirao tries to climb over a concrete wall but is pulled down, thrown to the ground and seized by several officers.

An internet cafe had reportedly notified police after a man resembling him visited.

Hirao had been serving a five-year sentence for theft before escaping prison on 8 April.

He was arrested in 2013 after a series of robberies in the south of the country.

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