Japan prison escapee caught after three-week manhunt involving thousands of police

Tatsuma Hirao escaped from Matsuyama Prison’s Oi shipyard, a rare open prison facility in Japan

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 April, 2018, 12:58pm
UPDATED : Monday, 30 April, 2018, 12:58pm

A 27-year-old prison escapee was caught Monday in the city of Hiroshima after more than three weeks on the run on a western Japan island, police said.

Despite a massive search involving thousands of police on Mukaishima Island in Hiroshima Prefecture since his escape from a prison in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, on April 8, Tatsuma Hirao’s whereabouts had remained unknown.

According to the Hiroshima prefectural police, Hirao’s identity was confirmed through fingerprints and other information.

The convicted thief was widely believed to have holed up on the forested island with a population of around 20,000, which has more than 1,000 vacant houses and abundant citrus fruits trees.

But the fact that Hirao was captured in Hiroshima means he was able to escape the island, dodging police checkpoints at bridges connecting the island to the main island of Honshu or other nearby islands.

Hirao escaped from Matsuyama Prison’s Oi shipyard, a rare open-type prison facility in Imabari.

The shipyard, one of Japan’s four open-type jails without perimeter walls, has seen 19 other people escape since it was established in 1961.