Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

FALSE PROPHET: THE AUM CULT OF TERROR

Perfect Weapon

A nondescript building within the Aum complex at Mt. Fuji housed one of the most sophisticated chemicals manufacturing facilities in the world. The building, known as Satian 7, had cost $10 million. The name "Satian" was derived from the ancient Sanskrit word for truth. All buildings within the compound were given this designation followed by a number.

Inside Aum's sarin facility
Inside Aum's sarin facility

This particular building had only one purpose: to produce one of the most deadly nerve toxins in the world - sarin gas. The computer-controlled laboratory was capable of producing 17.6 pints of liquid sarin at a time or two tons a day. Asahara had ordered the production of a massive 70 tons, enough to kill every living thing on the planet.

German chemists discovered sarin in 1936 while experimenting with organophoshorous compounds used in insecticides. Nazi leaders became aware of the new compound and quickly ordered it to be adapted for military purposes. However, sarin wasnt used in warfare because it wasnt perfected until after the end of the war.

Endo selected sarin, or isopropyl methylphosphonofluoridate, because of its ease of production and the availability of its ingredients. It was also one of the most lethal chemical compounds ever devised. A single drop on the skin was sufficient to kill an adult. Like anthrax, sarin caused a violent death.

Within minutes of being exposed to it in either a liquid or gas form, the victims nose begins to run, accompanied by tightening of the chest. Violent spasms, vomiting and loss of bladder and bowel control follow, with death preceded by convulsions and coma.

Masami Tsuchiya, a gifted chemist, finally succeeded in producing liquid sarin in October 1993. He, like Endo, had endured many months of abuse from Asahara for wasting time and money with little result. The end result had come at great cost, not only financially, but also physically. Many accidents had marred the process, injuring several workers permanently. Of all the formulas and methods that had been tried only one proved to be successful, the one that Endo had gleaned from the Russians. Asahara was ecstatic; he finally had his "doomsday" weapon, now all he needed was a place to test it.

During April 1993, Hayakawa was attempting to procure a supply of uranium for a future nuclear project. Unable to buy it in Japan, he and an assistant had traveled to Australia, which had one of the largest uranium deposits in the world. To assist him in his search, he hired a mining consultant and a realtor. By May 1993, he had set up two companies in Australia to aid in the purchase. The realtors took them to outback properties where they tested the soil with electronic devices. One property seemed perfect for their needs, "Banjawarn" station in Western Australia. At a cost of $400,000, it was a bargain. A further $110,000 was spent to obtain the mining rights for the land.

The new property seemed like the perfect place to try out their new arsenal and Asahara and his entourage traveled to the site to oversee the tests. Their arrival met with difficulties when they attempted to bring dangerous chemicals through customs illegally. The authorities had already criticized the sect for the poor maintenance of the property since the purchase and insisted on the appointment of an Australian farm manager.

Bones of sheep killed by nerve gas
Bones of sheep killed by nerve gas

Neville Brosnan, an experienced sheep station manager, was hired to run the property. He soon found the presence of the sect disturbing, especially after finding a cache of dangerous chemicals in a shed on the property and being told to mind his own business.

Its not known how the sarin was transported to Australia, but it wasnt made there, as it would have been virtually impossible to produce the compound with the basic facilities that were at the station. Regardless of how the sarin came to be there, the cultists had it and wasted no time in testing it on a group of tethered sheep. Within minutes of breathing in the toxic fumes, twenty-nine sheep were convulsing on the ground and died soon after. Asahara was overjoyed with the results, the sarin had finally worked. Now he was anxious to try it on a human target and already had someone in mind.

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