Prison escapee continues to evade police on small island
Japan Today -- Apr 16
The whereabouts of a 27-year-old prison escapee remained unknown on Sunday, with a weeklong search involving some 6,600 police officers on a small forested western Japan island failing to nab the convicted thief.

Hiroshima and Ehime prefectural police have been pursuing Tatsuma Hirao on Mukaishima Island in the Seto Inland Sea since his escape on April 8 from a prison in the city of Imabari.

Police searchers have come up empty despite Hirao leaving clues of his whereabouts including fingerprints on cars he has broken into and on trash left over from confectionary and milk products he has consumed.

The unique geographical character of the island, which has a population of around 20,000, has thwarted police, its forest cover and hilly topography has prevented officers from making an effective search, they say.

The search has also been complicated by the 22 square-kilometer island having over 1,000 vacant houses which police cannot enter without permission of their owners, many of whom they are unable to identify.

Without access to the vacant houses, police are forced to investigate only from the outside, a senior police official said.

With seven thefts having occurred in a 2.5 km-wide area of the island between last Monday and Friday, Hirao is believed to be in possession of some cash.

Some police officers have speculated Hirao may be surviving on food found in vacant houses as well as items left as offerings at graves. In addition, there are citrus-fruit trees and unattended orchards that he could access.

News source: Japan Today
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