File picture: Pexels

Sado Island - Two severed heads and the skeletal remains of five people were found on Saturday on a ‘ghost boat’ that washed up in Japan.

The heavily damaged wooden vessel was discovered by coastguards stranded on the shoreline of Sado Island.

It is believed it had been carrying people trying to cross the Sea of Japan after fleeing North Korea. The state of the bodies suggests the victims had been at sea for some time.

The boat was first spotted washed up on Friday but bad weather prevented officials from boarding it until on Saturday.

Wooden ‘ghost boats’ – often rickety, simple vessels without modern engines or navigation instruments – have washed up before in Japan.

During winter, exposure and starvation are the most common causes of death for crew. Ongoing tensions between Japan and North Korea could affect a full investigation into the grisly find. Japanese broadcaster NHK accidentally reported a North Korea missile launch on Friday before correcting the error. And last month, North Korea threatened Japan with a ‘real ballistic missile’.

Mail On Sunday