Autopsy: Shakahola Cult Victims Died of Starvation

Autopsy: Shakahola Cult Victims Died of Starvation

Postmortem performed on 10 bodies of victims of Shakahola cult has established starvation as the main cause of the deaths. Chief Government Pathologist Johansen Oduor, who led the exercise that kicked off at Malindi Sub-County Hospital mortuary yesterday also established majority of bodies examined were children. Out of the first 10 bodies examined, nine were of children while the remaining one was of a female adult, Dr Oduor said.

According to Oduor, seven out of the nine children died of starvation while two died as a result of asphyxiation—deficient supply of oxygen to the body. He said it was difficult to establish the exact cause of the female adult since the body was badly decomposed. The chief pathologist jetted into Malindi yesterday, and is leading a team of Government Pathologists who are conducting the exercise in presence of detectives from the Homicide Unit, forensic experts among other expertise.

Earlier on, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki had earlier said that among other things, postmortem on the 109 bodies exhumed in Shakahola forest will be seeking to unravel whether there was harvesting of body organs. Kindiki indicated that the week-long exercise is intended to establish circumstances under which the victims died.

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Speaking to the press yesterday, Kindiki said the pathologists will also be targeting to prove the theory of organ harvesting, which has been linked to the Kilifi cult led by controversial pastor Paul Mackenzie, founder of Good News International Church. “If any of our people have their organs missing we will tell the world, there is nothing we are hiding and we will have to find out why those organs are missing, who took them and to where,” Kindiki said.

He also said the postmortem will take at least one week to be completed. He, however, clarified that DNA tests and matching of samples of the dead and family members might take over one month as it was a technical process. The CS urged the public to maintain patience as the government embarks on the process to uncover the exact truth about the harrowing Shakahola massacre. So far, he said the government has resorted to using technology to conduct the operation in the 800 acre parcel of land. Kindiki said the government will deploy drones and helicopters once the logistics arrangements are over.

“We are here to witness the commencement of a very critical stage concerning what happened to our people in Shakahola forest. I am sure everybody knows the facts around the incidents that are here today,” he said. So far, 110 bodies have been exhumed, however, the exercise was stopped temporarily due to bad weather.

The Interior CS revealed that there is a team of three; pathologists, DCI Homicide Unit and forensic units for purposes of DNA and the team from government chemists that will deal with toxicology and other tests that will be required. “Anytime from now members of the commission of inquiry on the Shakahola tragedy will be announced,” he said, adding that President William Ruto said apart from the commission there will be a multiagency task force to help in preventing such incidents in future.

Kindiki further noted that autopsy findings are expected to assist in building a water-tight case against the perpetrators. Last Wednesday, the government declared Shakahola village within Chakama Ranch a crime scene and imposed curfew between 6pm and 6am for 30 days. Kindiki also declared the ranch a disturbed area where no access by the public is permitted.

Malindi Chief Magistrate also granted investigating officers orders to search and seize all property belonging to Mackenzie and eight other suspects. The search seeks to retrieve bank details or documents, title deeds, sale agreement, motor vehicle details and any other document and item linked to the offences of terrorism, radicalisation, murder and any other charges that will be preferred against them. Mackenzie, according to the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji, may face terror charges and may have committed serious crimes including murder, procuring, counseling and aiding persons to kill themselves, terrorist acts and radicalisation.

Detectives have so far arrested 14 members of the cult, while another 36 have been rescued from starvation. Extensive discussions President William Ruto said he will form a judicial inquiry to conduct investigations into the massacre. The President noted that he will hold extensive discussions with spiritual leaders from across the country to develop a legal framework within which religious centres will operate. “I will hold consultations with our religious leaders to have a taskforce so that we can weed out characters who want to abuse religion to run businesses and things that are anti-religion,” the President said. Last Thursday, the Judiciary shared status of cases involving Mackenzie that are or have been before court.

The pastor and his co-accused have a court history dating back to March 2017. In the case, Mackenzie and two other suspects were jointly charged with the offence of offering basic education in an unregistered institution. They, however, later entered a plea bargain with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution and were discharged by the trial court and ordered to be of good behaviour. He was later arraigned on October 17, 2017 on four counts including radicalisation and failing to take his children to school.

He pleaded not guilty and was on October 29, 2021 acquitted. Later, on April 11, 2019, Mackenzie was accused of disobedience of law and being in possession of and distributing films which had not been examined by the Kenya Film Classification Board.

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