HIROSHIMA (TR) – Two weeks after a convict escaped from a special prison, thousands of police officers are still combing a small island in Hiroshima Prefecture in search of the fugitive, reports the Sankei Shimbun (Apr. 21).
Over the weekend, about 450 officers from Hiroshima and Ehime prefectural police forces patrolled Mukaishima island, Hiroshima, with a population of around 10,000 people, in search of 27-year-old Tatsuma Hirao, who escaped from Oi Shipyard at Matsuyama Prison in Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture on April 8.
With the assistance of sniffer dogs, officers are searching the residences on the island for the convict. However, the search has been encumbered by the fact that about 1,000 residences are unoccupied — a condition that makes inspection difficult since entering a domicile requires permission. Further, the island’s hilly terrain makes the search challenging, police said.
At around 6:00 p.m. on April 8, Hirao escaped from the Oi Shipyard at Matsuyama Prison in Imabari. Police believe he escaped through an unlocked window on the first floor of the prison, which does not have a fence.
Police believe that Hirao then stole a vehicle from a house near the prison and drove in the direction of Hiroshima. At around 8:30 p.m., the vehicle was found abandoned in Onomichi, located about 60 kilometers from Imabari.
The search, which has now surpassed the two-week mark, has included up to around 1,200 officers from both prefectural police forces.
Seven theft cases
Since his escape, there have been seven confirmed cases of theft on the island. Money and goods have been reported as taken from residences and vehicles. In one case, a fingerprint found inside a vehicle from which items were stolen in Onomichi City, which is located on Mukaishima, proved to be a match for Hirao. However, the clues have not led to his apprehension.
Last December, Hirao entered Matsuyama Prison after being convicted of theft. The institution is one of four institutions in the nation that does not have a perimeter fence.