Japanese police have launched a manhunt for a 63-year-old haiku poet suspected of slaying five people in a tiny mountain village.

The charred bodies of a couple, aged 71 and 72, were found Sunday in the remains of their home after it burned down to the ground in Shunan, a hamlet in the western Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Around 80 meters away, police discovered a third body, believed to be that of a 79-year-old woman, whose house was similarly set alight.

On Monday, police found the two more bodies in their homes. Both the elderly were believed to have died after being beaten to death.

All five victims suffered skull fractures, suggesting they had been struck on the head with a blunt instrument, reports The Japan Times.

“The victims must have been asleep when they were fatally attacked,” criminologist Jinsuke Kageyama said.

The deaths account for a third of the population of the rural village, which consists only of a temple, a community center and about 10 households.

Police investigating the case said they went to the home of the poet but did not find him there and instead saw a haiku plastered on the window, which reportedly reads: “Setting a fire – smoke gives delight – to a country fellow.”