• Kyodo


Police said Thursday they believe the same blunt object was used to bludgeon to death five people in their homes Sunday and Monday in the mountain hamlet of Shunan, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Victims Makoto Sadamori, 71, and his wife, Kiyoko, 72, were found Sunday night in their home, which was torched after the slayings. The corpse of Miyako Yamamoto, 79, was found in her gutted home around the same time.

Around noon Monday, police found the bodies of Satoko Kawamura, 73, and Fumito Ishimura, 80, in their nearby homes. All appeared to have been repeatedly struck on the head by the same weapon, which has not been found.

Police launched a manhunt for a 63-year-old man who lived next-door to Yamamoto, but so far they have not found him and are releasing no details about his identity.

Police responding to the Sunday night fires and discoveries of the initial three corpses had confirmed that evening that Kawamura was safe, only to find her dead in her home Monday. When they knocked on Ishimura’s door Sunday night, no one answered.

Since Tuesday, 150 investigators have been assigned to the case, from an initial 60, and police dogs are being used to search the nearby mountains. The man was last seen by a neighbor Sunday around noon.

On Thursday, sources said the man visited a local police station in January 2011 to report having difficulty getting along with his neighbors. He reportedly told the officers that they rejected his idea of starting projects to revitalize the community and also said some residents complained that his dog stank.

The police said the man talked to the officers for about two hours and later said he felt better getting his issues off his chest.

About 10 local residents have evacuated to a community center since Monday. On Wednesday, two health care workers were dispatched to the center during the day to lend support if needed.

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