TOKYO -- One of Japan's most wanted men surrendered himself to police on New Year's Eve -- only to be turned away by officials who were convinced he was a prankster.
The arrest of Makoto Hirata, a former member of Japan's Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult, was reported Sunday but officials failed to mention that the 46-year-old suspect had first been told to leave a major Tokyo police station.
Hirata has been on the run for nearly 17 years for his suspected role in the cult, which was responsible for the 1995 nerve-gas attack on the Tokyo subway that killed 13 people and injured thousands.
He went to Tokyo Metropolitan Police headquarters late Saturday and told an officer, "I am Makoto Hirata and I'm here to turn myself in," only to be dismissed by the official as a fake, Japanese media revealed Tuesday.
Hirata, who was sporting longer hair, had not undergone any plastic surgery, according to the Asahi Shimbun, but the officer in question thought the fugitive looked too different from his wanted poster, which has adorned rail stations and police stations since 1995.
Hirata persisted with his claims but the officer told him to go to Marunouchi Police Station, around half a mile away, Mainichi Shimbun reported Tuesday.
He is wanted for his alleged role in the kidnapping of an official in 1995 and conspiring with other cult members to inject the man with a chemical "truth serum" that caused him to die.
"Hirata was arrested on suspicion of abduction and confinement resulting in death," a Tokyo
Metropolitan Police Department spokesman said Sunday.
Hirata told investigators that he turned himself in after being affected by the devastation caused by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the Asahi Shimbun reported.
He added that he could now come forward because the statute of limitations had expired for a 1995 shooting of the chief of the National Police Agency.
Hirata denies any role in the shooting and reportedly said that he wanted to avoid a wrongful arrest.