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Killings in tiny Japanese village prompt hunt for 'serial killer'

By Yoko Wakatsuki, CNN
updated 8:38 PM EDT, Wed July 24, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Five bodies discovered in remote village in Western Japan; their house burned down
  • A note, in the form of a poem, was found in the home of man police are hunting
  • Hundreds of police searching for 63-year-old man who lived next to victims

Tokyo (CNN) -- Hundreds of police are involved in the hunt for a 63-year-old man in connection with the murder of five people in a remote Japanese hamlet. The victims' houses were also burned down.

A note, apparently written in the form of a "haiku" poem -- a typically short form of Japanese verse -- was left hanging in the window of the fugitive man's home next door to one of the burned out homes.

Three bodies were found on Sunday after two houses in Mitake, a tiny community in western Japan's Yamaguchi prefecture, were gutted by a "suspicious" fire, Yamaguchi police spokesman Katsumi Harada told CNN.

The following morning, two more corpses were found a few hundred meters away in the same neighborhood in the victims' respective homes.

An autopsy revealed that all five victims were killed by injuries to the head, prompting police to set up a task force to investigate a possible serial killer, Harada said.

Despite feverish media speculation, Harada refused to draw a link between the poem and the killings, though he said the man, who's been missing since Sunday, could provide valuable information about what happened. According to the authorities, the poem translated as: "Setting on fire, smoke gives delight, to country fellows."

Mitake is a remote, mountainous hamlet with only 16 inhabitants. According to local media, the man police are hunting lived alone and moved into the neighborhood about 20 years ago to take care of his elderly parents.

Reports suggested the man grew increasingly alienated in the small community after his parents died about 7-8 years ago. One of the victims frequently quarreled with him over his dog, according to Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest newspaper.

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