He Escaped Capture for Years. Then Facebook Saw His Tattoos

Shigeharu Shirai was arrested Wednesday in Thailand
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2018 10:01 AM CST
Frail Old Man's Tattoos Go Viral, Exposing a Fugitive Yakuza Boss
Japanese gang member Shigeharu Shirai displays his tattoos at a police station during a press conference in Lopburi.   (AP Photo)

A Japanese yakuza boss who's been a fugitive since allegedly committing a 2003 murder was done in by his extensive tattoos. The BBC reports Facebook photos of Shigeharu Shirai, variously reported as being 72 or 74, showed the frail and elderly man doing what frail and elderly men might do: playing checkers with peers alongside a road in Thailand. Except these photos, posted in August, went viral, ostensibly because they show Shirai's extensive chest and back tattoos. The person who took the images didn't know who Shirai was but admired the marks. Japanese police took notice of the images and asked their Thai counterparts to apprehend Shirai, which they did Wednesday in the town of Lopburi on the grounds of visa violations.

He'll be extradited to Japan in connection with the 2003 murder of a rival. Another giveaway: The photos showed Shirai absent the tip of his pinkie, a common self-inflicted punishment among those yakuza who've made a mistake. Shirai reportedly fled to Thailand in 2005 and married a woman there, and the AP reports by way of police that Shirai was visited two or three times annually by cronies who provided him with cash. AFP reports eight gang members were said to be involved in the rival's murder; the others were all arrested and sentenced to 12 to 17 years. (Ready to leave the yakuza? This woman will provide a fake finger.)

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