OSAKA (Kyodo) -- A rape suspect who escaped from an Osaka Prefecture police station earlier this week may have snatched purses from several people since going on the run, investigative sources said Thursday.
After Junya Hida, 30, disappeared from Tondabayashi police station in the suburbs of Osaka on Sunday evening, a series of purse snatchings by a man on a black minibike have been reported in the vicinity every evening through Wednesday.
Given that Hida was also indicted over similar night-time thefts using a minibike in May, the police suspect he is taking money again.
Around the time he fled on Sunday, a black minibike was stolen in the Osaka city of Matsubara, where Hida resided.
Hida has been indicted on charges of rape, theft and robbery resulting in injury and was served a fresh arrest warrant last week on a charge of attempted rape. He had been detained for two and a half months.
Shortly after meeting his lawyer at the police station on Sunday evening, Hida apparently smashed an acrylic partition in their meeting room and left through the same entrance the lawyer had used, the police said.
Among the purse-snatching cases, a man in a black T-shirt on a minibike allegedly stole a bag from a woman in her 20s from the front basket of her bicycle around 9 p.m. Monday in nearby Habikino. The bag contained cash and a cellphone.
About an hour later, a similar case was reported in Osaka's Hirano Ward, according to the police.
On Tuesday night, a woman riding a bicycle in Ikuno Ward had her belongings stolen, and another woman walking in Higashisumiyoshi Ward was targeted on Wednesday evening.
All of the targets had their bags taken by a person overtaking them on a minibike.
The police have placed Hida, who was wearing a long-sleeved black track suit when he fled, on a national wanted list and are searching for him, suspecting he could be hiding in vacant houses.