More bodies retrieved from Shakahola farm

Homicide detectives prepare to exhume more bodies at Shakahola farm in Malindi, Kilifi County on April 22, 2023. [Marion Kithi, Standard]

Twelve more bodies were exhumed yesterday from the Shakahola farm taking the number of deaths from the cult to 145.

A multi-agency team led by the director of a homicide department in the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) Martin Nyaguto said the bodies were retrieved from graves within the 800-acre Shakahola farm.

At the Malindi mortuary, hundreds of relatives of the people whose loved ones are missing continued to come forward. Pathologists and forensic experts were working around the clock to identify the bodies so that their loved ones can give them a befitting burial.

‘’I’m hoping to get the bodies of my sister and my three nephews so that we can give them a dignified burial,” said Priscar Zawadi who has been camping at the Malindi sub-county hospital mortuary for the past two weeks.

She said her sister relocated to Shakahola with her family in pursuit of her faith. Zawadi is one of hundreds of family members who are clinging to hope that their loved ones may be rescued alive.

But they are also prepared for the worst. ‘’If they died because of their faith, the only solace our family can reach for now is giving our sister and her children a decent burial,” said Zawadi

Zawadi is among the 93 relatives who have shown up at the morgue to take the DNA test. Most relatives are grappling with grief. Others are dealing with the agony of uncertainty.

Some are searching for parents, spouses or siblings who went missing in Shakahola. They have been camping in Malindi town. Those lining up at the morgue compound say they came to confirm the death or find a body they will be able to bury.

Coast region Red Cross Manager Hassan Musa said yesterday that some 579 people have registered missing family members.

“Some 579 people have been registered missing by their families. The families are desperate to know where they are, if they are alive, and how they can get them back,” said Mussa.

Mr Jacob Juma, whose son - a university graduate who went missing last year - is praying the DNA will not match his son’s, so he can carry on believing his missing son may still be trapped in the expansive forest. “I came to do the DNA test but I hope it doesn’t turn out to be true,”  said Juma.

Chief Government pathologist Johansen Oduor disclosed last week that many of the victims had died of starvation while some from head trauma. Most children were strangled and suffocated to death. Oduor said DNA testing spares families the trauma of having to view the bodies.