Remains Found in Suspected Cult Killing, Investigation Questioned
TOKYO (AP) _ After nearly a week of digging, police have discovered a set of remains believed to be those of a one-year-old boy whose father, an outspoken critic of the Aum Shinri Kyo cult, and mother were slain.
The recovery of the remains, which police on Monday tried to match to the boy’s medical records, ended a search that has riveted Japan and could bring Aum’s founder, Shoko Asahara, one step closer to the gallows.
The announcement that police searching through a secluded marsh in central Japan had found a set of child’s bones Sunday evening was trumpeted across the country in televised news bulletins and carried in front-page headlines Monday.
Commentators and critics, however, noted that the same area was searched after an anonymous tip five years ago. That search was called off after four days.
In a news conference after the boy’s remains were found, local police official Misao Takahashi defended the earlier search, saying it was hampered by snow.
``There was nothing more we could do,″ the Mainichi Shimbun, a major newspaper, quoted him as saying.
Last week, police sought new murder charges against Asahara _ who has already been charged for masterminding a deadly attack on Tokyo’s subways last spring _ after they recovered the bodies of the boy’s father, lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, and mother, Satoko.
The remains of Sakamoto and his wife, identified by DNA analysis, were retrieved from shallow graves in separate, densely wooded locations. Police were directed to the site by the confessions of cult members already under arrest for other alleged crimes.
The Sakamoto murders, believed to have been carried out in late 1989 or early 1990, are the earliest known killings linked to Aum, which is suspected of having plotted a series of violent attacks aimed at overthrowing the Japanese government.
Along with Asahara, several senior cult members are facing charges in connection with a dozen more deaths caused by the subway attack and seven killings in an earlier nerve gas attack in central Japan, as well as kidnappings and a long list of other crimes.
Police believe Asahara ordered several of his underlings to kill Sakamoto and his family in order to the quash legal actions against Aum.