Japan's 'haiku' killer, 65, sentenced to death for murdering five

TOKYO (AFP) - A convicted Japanese murderer who left a haunting "haiku" poem behind after his grisly deeds was sentenced to death on Tuesday (July 28).

The district court in south-western Yamaguchi prefecture handed down the sentence two years after Kosei Homi, 65, was arrested for killing five elderly residents in a tiny mountain hamlet.

The victims, in their 70s and 80s - who reportedly represented about one-third of the community's population -- were battered to death.

Prosecutors acknowledged that Homi suffered from a paranoid mental disorder but argued he was competent to stand trial.

Defence lawyers immediately appealed the sentence.

Japan and the United States are the only major advanced industrial nations that continue to have capital punishment.

In July 2013 police found three corpses in fire-gutted houses and subsequently uncovered two more bodies in separate homes.

Homi was arrested days later, being spotted dressed only in his underwear in mountains near the hamlet.

At Homi's house, a "haiku" poem was stuck to the window, which read: "Setting a fire - smoke gives delight - to a country fellow."

The haiku is a traditional Japanese form, a three-line verse of 17 syllables in a five-seven-five arrangement. It customarily evokes natural phenomena frequently as a metaphor for human emotions.