Shakahola death toll rises to 436 after seven more bodies retrieved


Homicide detectives carrying bodies of cult victims in Shakahola forest, Kilifi County. [Marioon Kithi, Standard]

Detectives and forensic experts from the  DCI Homicide Unit have recovered seven bodies as the fifth phase of Shakahola exhumation kicked off Monday.

This has pushed the death toll to 436.

The seven skeletal remains were exhumed from four graves at the Kwa Mugambi area south side of controversial pastor Paul Mackenzie's homestead in Shakahola forest, Kilifi county.

Speaking during a media briefing at the command centre, Chief Government pathologist Dr Johansen Oduor said 50 mass graves have been identified.

The exhumation which resumed on June 3, 2024, had been suspended in December 2023 to allow pathologists to conduct DNA on the bodies.

In the fifth phase of exhumation, the positively identified graves are located using the global positioning system (GPS).

Further detectives discovered a grave believed to be of Mackenzie's daughter near his homestead.

Detectives made the grim discovery after a neighbour led them to the burial site.

The team involved in the operation has been facing a hurdle with wild animals roaming around Shakahola.

Last week, a team that had gone for surveillance in the forest escaped death narrowly after an encounter with elephants. The car they were travelling in was damaged.

The incident was reported at Langobaya Police Station.

Out of the 34 positively identified bodies, the state has handed over 32 bodies to their families.

The two remaining bodies are of siblings and a further DNA  test is required to establish their identity before being handed over to their families for burial.

Earlier, Coast Regional Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha said 610 people have been reported missing at the tracing centre.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki announced that the unclaimed bodies will be buried in Shakahola.

Prof Kindiki said that the state has compulsory possession of 4,000 acres of the Chakama ranch which will serve as the final resting place for victims that will not be claimed by their families.