Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

FALSE PROPHET: THE AUM CULT OF TERROR

Death & Betrayal

With no arrest warrants issued against them, many of the inner circle were still at large. Some of the more prominent members were seen entering Aums Tokyo headquarters by the large contingent of media that had set up a permanent camp outside the building.

Hideo Murai holds his stomach just after stabbing
Hideo Murai holds his stomach just after stabbing

On April 23, several cars had arrived outside the building and cult figures, including lawyer Yoshinobu Aoyama, had forced their way through the crowd to their offices. At approximately 8:30 p.m., Aums chief scientist, Hideo Murai, stepped from a vehicle and made his way towards the entrance. Just as he reached the door, a man stepped forward and plunged a knife into Murais stomach. The media and members of the public watched in horror as the man stabbed his victim repeatedly until, covered with blood, Murai slumped to the ground mortally wounded.

The attacker, later identified as Hiroyuki Jo, gave himself up to police and explained to them that he acted in anger after seeing what the cult had done in the subway. Later he was to change his story and tell investigators that he was hired by a Yakuza chieftain to assassinate one of the Aum principals. When Murai died six hours later, both men were charged with his murder.

After the murder, 90 more raids of Aum sites were organized. During one such raid of the main compound, housed within a building known as Satian 2, police found a basement that had been overlooked during previous raids. Upon gaining entry to the basement, police were surprised to discover the two principal architects of Asaharas personal Armageddon, Masami Tsuchiya and Seiichi Endo.

Six weeks after the Tokyo subway attacks, over 150 cult members had been arrested. Most for minor offences, but some for more serious crimes including kidnapping. None, however, had been charged in connection to nerve gas production or gas attacks. Three of the leading cult figures were yet to be caught. Among them was one of the most dangerous, Yoshihiro Inoue. In company with physicist Toru Toyoda and Asaharas personal physician Tomomasa Nakagawa, Inoue still had a few cards left to play.

May 5th, being a public holiday in Japan, meant that the subways were packed with many commuters traveling out of the city. Wary of another attack, thousands of  police patrolled the nation's railway stations and tourist attractions. One such location was Shinjuku, one of Tokyos busiest stations.

Later that evening, station staff at Shinjuku were alerted to a burning bag in one of the public restrooms. The flames were doused with water but the bag began to emit noxious fumes. The fire department arrived and finally rendered the device inactive. Later when police examined the device, they found that it contained two condoms containing the chemicals, sodium cyanide and sulfuric acid. The device was simply designed so that when the acid had eaten through the first condom it would mix with the contents of the second, creating hydrogen cyanide, a deadly gas that had been used by the Nazis in their extermination of the Jews.

Asahara in custody
Asahara in custody

If the device had realized its full potential, it would have entered the ventilation system and could have killed over 20,000 commuters. Ten days later, Inoue was seen by police at another subway station and arrested. 

Shoko Asahara still eluded the police net that had been set up throughout the country. Incredibly, he was later found to be hiding out within the compound in Satian 6, a building that had supposedly been searched by police many times. On May 16, 1995, watched by the biggest contingent of media in Japanese history, police stormed Satian 6 and arrested Shoko Asahara. He was dressed in purple robes and, according to police, "smelled bad." The media later speculated that the police had known the whereabouts of Asahara for some time but held off the arrest until they were assured of maximum media coverage.

Even though all of the leaders of the cult were in jail, the attacks continued. A letter bomb was delivered to the office of Yukio Aoshima, the Tokyo governor. When the device was opened by one of Aoshimas secretaries, it detonated and blew the fingers off the mans left hand.

Two more cyanide devices were found in Tokyos subways, but neither had detonated. In all, four more devices would be found, each with the potential to kill thousands.

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