A massive manhunt was underway in Japan on Wednesday against an escaped rape suspect, with 4,000 police officers, 850 vehicles, sniffer dogs, helicopters and boats scouring the port city near Tokyo, reports said.
The rare nationwide hunt was launched against Yuta Sugimoto, 20, was being questioned over claims he was part of a gang that raped and robbed a woman on the streets of Kawasaki, just south of Tokyo, on January 2.
He slipped away from his guard during a visit to prosecutors in an office building on Tuesday, a day after he and another man were arrested.
He apparently loosened his waist rope after requesting a toilet break, a Kanagawa prefectural police official said on condition of anonymity due to departmental rules. The suspect tore himself away from police officers and escaped.
The case itself was not intended to be made public public, but that changed when the suspect vanished, the police official said.
The rare escape of a suspect during interrogation caught a nationwide attention was not only an embarrassment for the authorities but raised safety concerns among local residents.
Police in the area mounted the massive operation when the alarm was raised, flooding the streets with thousands of officers and a huge amount of equipment, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported.
Local schools instructed students not to venture out alone, reports said.
Some parents accompanied their children to schools, while students went to school in groups.
“It is frightening that he is still on the run,” one mother of an elementary school child told Fuji TV.
Violent crime is rare in Japan and incidents of this kind receive heavy media coverage.