April 4, 2007 / 1:14 PM / 12 years ago

Mummified corpses found in death rite mystery

TOKYO (Reuters) - Five decomposed bodies, possibly of a couple and their children who died one after another several years ago, have been found in a house in Japan, triggering media speculation on religious death rites.

Japanese police have not been able to identify the partly mummified, partly skeletonised bodies, which were found lying on their backs on mattresses in a house in Omuta on the southwestern island of Kyushu, a police spokesman said.

Japanese media said the bodies could be of a couple in their 90s and their two daughters and son who had lived in the house.

“They died between about 20 years ago and four years ago, one after another,” the Yomiuri newspaper quoted a relative as saying. “They believed that dead persons would return to life if they were left alone.”

Media reports said the family had been seen conducting “religious rituals.”

Police said an autopsy was needed to determine the age, identity and gender of the bodies.

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