Massive manhunt in Japan ends as rape suspect is caught on 'live' TV

Yuta Sugimoto (centre), who slipped away from his guard during a visit to prosecutors in an office building on Jan 7, arrives at the prosecutors office in Kawasaki, suburban Tokyo on Jan 9, 2014, after he was arrested in Yokohama, near Kawasaki. -- P
Yuta Sugimoto (centre), who slipped away from his guard during a visit to prosecutors in an office building on Jan 7, arrives at the prosecutors office in Kawasaki, suburban Tokyo on Jan 9, 2014, after he was arrested in Yokohama, near Kawasaki. -- PHOTO: AFP
This recent picture released by Kanagawa Prefectural Police Department on January 7, 2014 shows a portrait of escaped rape suspect Yuta Sugimoto, 20. Sugimoto slipped away from his guard during a visit to prosecutors in an office building on January
This recent picture released by Kanagawa Prefectural Police Department on January 7, 2014 shows a portrait of escaped rape suspect Yuta Sugimoto, 20. Sugimoto slipped away from his guard during a visit to prosecutors in an office building on January 7, the day after he and another man were arrested. He was being questioned over claims he was part of a gang that raped and robbed a woman on the streets of Kawasaki, south of Tokyo, on January 2. -- PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - A massive manhunt that saw thousands of Japanese police flood the streets ended on live television on Thursday with the capture of an escaped rape suspect.

Footage shot from a helicopter showed dozens of plainclothes police officers and their uniformed colleagues surrounding a man believed to be Yuta Sugimoto, 20, who slipped away during his visit to a prosecutors' office in Kawasaki, a port city south of Tokyo.

Sugimoto had been on the run since Tuesday after fleeing during a break in questioning over the gang rape and robbery of a young woman in the city on Jan 2.

Around 4,000 police were mobilised, along with hundreds of vehicles, helicopters, boats and sniffer dogs in the hunt for the suspect, reports have said.

Schools in the area instructed their students not to go out alone and parents told television reporters of fears for their children's safety in a country where rates of violent crime are very low.

Public broadcaster NHK aired an unusually long "live" broadcast of Thursday's capture, reflecting the intense media and public interest in the case.

Footage showed a man, whose head was covered, being led along a wooded path by dozens of officers, before being pushed into a waiting police car in an area of the nearby city of Yokohama.