Thousands of Japanese police still on a manhunt for an escaped prisoner

  • Tatsuma Hirao escaped while at a shipyard at an open prison in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture
  • He has been on the run since he escaped from Matsuyama Prison’s Oi shipyard on April 8

Thousands of Japanese police officers and trained police dogs have been hunting in vain across Mukaishima island for several weeks now; trying to find an inmate who escaped from an open prison in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture.

A police dragnet has been spread across the island where he is believed to still be in hiding.

The inmate who was identified as Tatsuma Hirao, serving time for multiple thefts, has been on the run since he escaped from Matsuyama Prison’s Oi shipyard on April 8.

“I’m not sure if he is still on the island,” said a senior police officer. “But we don’t have proof that he is not on the island so we need to maintain the current level of investigation.”

Police officers continue to stand guard at every road that connects to the Hiroshima Prefecture island while they also keep a close watch at ferry stations. The Justice Ministry has dispatched officials to guard local daycares, kindergartens and elementary and junior high schools.

“I go to and from school with my children every day,” said a 29-year-old mother of two. “We’re trying to avoid letting them play outside, so they are stressed out.”

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.