Japan police unmask 74-year-old ‘ninja’ burglar

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A file photo shows Osaka, Japan at night. Wiki Commons CC BY SA

TOKYO (AFP) – Japanese police have finally nabbed a nimble “ninja” thief who dressed in black and scrambled over walls to commit scores of break-ins and were astonished to find he was 74.

Osaka police had been stumped by a string of burglaries, their only lead being security camera footage showing an agile thief with a black neck-warmer pulled up to the nose and a parker hood down to the eyebrows. “He was dressed all in black just like a ninja,” a senior official at Kawachi police station said.

But the master thief made a mistake in May – his neck-warmer slipped and his identity was revealed on camera. Police recognised their man as Mitsuaki Tanigawa, 74, who had a previous record of thefts.

They then started watching the aged crook and tried to trap him.

“Investigators watched him doddering out from his house like any other old man during daytime. He then went to an abandoned apartment room where he changed and waited until it got dark,” the official said.

“When he came out in the dark, he was all in black. He did not take ordinary streets, squeezing through tight spaces between houses and running on the tops of walls.”

Investigators pounced when he came back to his hideout at 4am after robbing an electronics store.Under arrest, Mr Tanigawa said he “hated working and thought stealing is quicker”, according to the official.

He has been charged for over 254 break-ins for thefts totalling $260,000 over the past eight years.

“If I were younger, I wouldn’t have been caught. I’ll quit now as I’m 74 and old enough,” the thief was quoted as saying.

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