HIROSHIMA (TR) – Nearly three weeks after a convict escaped from a special prison, law enforcement have begun using special cameras at night in combing a small island in Hiroshima Prefecture in search of the fugitive, reports TV Asahi (Apr. 27).
On the night of April 26, a Japan Coast Guard helicopter equipped with an infrared camera began patrolling Mukaishima island, Hiroshima in search of 27-year-old Tatsuma Hirao, who escaped from Oi Shipyard at Matsuyama Prison in Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture earlier this month.
Since Hirao’s escape, more than 1,000 officers from Hiroshima and Ehime prefectural police forces have been scouring the landscape and residences of the island, whose population is around 10,000 people.
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.
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.